The History of the MAC OS

The History of the MAC OS

Mr. geek

Mac OS was the first successful operating system to incorporate a graphical interface.

But, unlike what we are led to believe, the OS of the Apple was not the first in an absolute sense, directly inspired by ALTO, born in the laboratories of the XEROX PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), and officially recognized as the first real computer with graphic OS.

In 1979 Jobs visited the XEROX PARC, being strongly impressed by the technological innovations developed, and returned to the Apple headquarters with one obsession: to equip his computers with an operating system with a Graphic Interface. Thus begins to take on part of the Xerox team and gives life to the Lisa project , quickly supplanted by the Macintosh which becomes an unprecedented success.

But why has the Mac been successful where ALTO and STAR, its direct successor, have failed? The reasons are mainly to be found in the economic / commercial: Xerox ALTO cost about $ 32,000, the Xerox START about $ 16,600. In addition, Xerox itself did not know how to present its product to the market, as it was used to offering mainly copiers.

On January 24, 1984, Apple presents the Macintosh (128K), at a cost of $ 2,500, and accompanies its launch with an excellent advertising campaign, which manages to obtain a wide penetration of the product on the market and make Apple forget the failure. of LISA, which remained in warehouses due to the prohibitive cost of about $ 10,000. The operating system supplied with the Apple computer is indicated by the unimaginative name of System 1 and based on the MFS (Macintosh File System) File System. 



Apple "Lisa" vs. Apple "Macintosh 

In April 1985 the Macintosh 512K arrives with the System 2 , practically identical to the previous one, which, however, does not solve the limit of being able to run only one application at a time.

One year later, January 1986, Apple presents System 3 which, thanks to the new HFS ( Hierarchical File System ), allows a real hierarchical management of files and folders, unlike its predecessors which simulated this functionality through special indexed tables. . The next step is System 4.0 (System 3.2, Finder 5.3) which appeared in March 1987, with the Mac Plus, and adds support for SCSI and the bundled AppleTalk tool.

Continuing along our timeline we enter the realm of confusion, thanks to System 5.0 , which actually never existed.

In fact, normally, this version number indicates System 4.2 (Finder 6.0), released in October 1987, which introduces the Multifinder for the exchange of information between the only active application allowed and the other dormant ones.


System 4.2

In 1988 it was the turn of System 6 which added the coveted support for color monitors and introduced the new QuickDraw technology in order to extend its graphic capabilities. The MultiFinder is greatly enhanced with the introduction of cooperative multitasking , preparing to become the only Finder available.

We have to wait two years (1990) for the release of System 7 which consolidates the previous versions and makes Mac OS a stable and complete system, above all thanks to the numerous kernel optimizations, including: a new communication architecture between the system , between user-level processes and better management of device drivers . This leads to a full 32-bit memory addressing and no longer 24bit as it previously happened due to the hardware limitations of the first Macs. The now mature MultiFinder becomes the only Finder available and operates incooperative multitasking .

In the following years, things became considerably complicated for Apple.

Windows 95 is now the market leader and Apple's various attempts to create an OS to counter Microsoft's advance turn out to be a disaster. From Pink OS , the result of a joint venture between IBM and APPLE, aborted in 1995, to Copland , developed entirely by APPLE, which two years after the announcement (1996) is abandoned as a project in itself. Part of the components of the latter are integrated into the various updates of System 7, which quickly reaches the System 7.6 release .

To get back on top, APPLE then tries a completely different path: to acquire Be Inc , producer of the popular BeBox and, above all, of BeOS . The acquisition agreement reaches its final stage but is blocked due to economic reasons: APPLE offers 120 million dollars while Be asks for 200, despite the “only” 20 million dollars total of investments made by the company. The length of the negotiation, even if not completely wrecked, pushes the Cupertino house to consider the adoption of third-party operating systems such as Solaris and even Windows NT.

In this phase of uncertainty and panic, Jobs reappears, previously exited from Apple, who calls the CEO Amelio and offers him his OPENSTEP and the technology platform of NeXT , a company founded by Jobs himself after the divorce from "his" Apple on the 31st. May 1985. The two companies reach an acquisition agreement and on December 20, 1996 APPLE buys NeXT for 427 million dollars.

On the divorce between Jobs and Apple, the version according to which Apple fired its founder has almost always predominated, but in 2011 Jay Elliot (Apple executive vice president ) , in his book "Steve Jobs - The man who invented the future ”, He tells the truth as a spectator of the episode. It happened that Steve Jobs, years earlier, fell in love with a prototype born in Apple's research centers and gave birth to the Macintosh division. The Apple II, the computer that had made Apple very rich, found itself competing with a new model. Jobs deliberately created adversity between the Apple II division and the Macintosh division, so much so that he called those who worked on the Mac "pirates" and those who obeyed Apple's official rules "navy".

At the launch of the Mac, sales took off, but stopped a few months later due to the poor hardware performance of the computer and the limited presence of software. Sculley asked Jobs to change the product to make it more commercial, but the latter went on his way with the idea of ​​creating the perfect computer ideal for everyone. The whole operation, however, was becoming damaging to Apple's economy, so Sculley lifted Jobs from the Mac division to promote him to Apple's CTO.

The capricious Jobs did not accept the offense and left the company offices. Soon after, he sold all but one of his shares and went on a series of trips, starting with Italy, among other things. A few years later Steve Jobs asked Apple to collaborate on a new startup and Apple gave him some employees, leading to the birth of NeXT. So in reality Steve Jobs was never fired from Apple, but he walked away of his own free will and NeXT, bought in the 90s by Apple, was born from a rib of the company.



After the acquisition, Amelio commented on the agreement with the historic phrase:

" We choose Plan A instead of Plan Be " [ We chose Plan A instead of Plan Be] , with obvious reference to Be Inc.

Immediately after the acquisition of NeXT, APPLE begins the development of Rhapsody , its new NeXT-based OS, whose roadmap leads to the rapid release of two developer releases , the first in September 1997 and the second in May of the following year. .

In the meantime, also in 1997, Mac Os 8 (not System 8 ) is released, which makes the HFS + File System its own and updates the GUI, allowing for more extensive customization. Important improvements are also found in the management of networks, in the sharing of resources and device drivers.

On September 16, 1997 Steve Jobs was appointed interim CEO of APPLE and a few months later, at the 1998 WWDC, he announced that APPLE is ready to release the new Mac OS X, which in any case will guarantee compatibility with the previous Mac OS thanks to a sort of sand-box. From now on the old Apple system will be referred to as "Classic". Even if with a slight delay the times are respected and on March 16th 1999 APPLE presents Mac OS X Server 1.0 and a developer preview of the Desktop edition called Darwin 0.1 . At the same time Mac OS 8 is updated to release 8.5 (1998) executable only on power pc architecture and accompanied by the new Sherlock search system .

However, the release times of the final version of the new OS are still long and the Cupertino company decides to further update Mac OS, first releasing version 8.6 ,  which introduces a " nanokernel"  for multi tasking and multiprocessing support, and then Mac OS 9 , designed to guide the transition to MacOS X and, at the same time, ensure better integration into the new OS with a view to backwards compatibility. Mac OS 9 basically contains a number of technologies designed to prepare users, but especially developers, for the X revolution, including the Carbon API ,essential for the development of applications compatible with Mac OS X. In subsequent minor releases, Apple even makes it mandatory to use them.

The wait ends on March 24, 2001: Mac OS X is born .

To date, 11 major releases of Mac OS X have been released: 10.0 "Cheetah" (March 24, 2001), 10.1 "Puma" (September 29, 2001), 10.2 "Jaguar" (August 13, 2002), 10.3 "Panther" (October 24, 2003), 10.4 "Tiger" (April 29, 2005), 10.5 "Leopard" (October 26, 2007), 10.6 "Snow Leopad" (September 2009),  10.7 "Lion" (July 20, 2011),  10.8 Mountain Lion (25 July 2012) and 10.9 Mavericks (22 October 2013), 10.10 Yosemite (2 June 2014), 10.11 El Capitan  (30 September 2015) and 10.12 Sierra (September 20, 2016).


Many people consider Mac OS X a kind of NEXTSTEP / OPENSTEP version 5, 6, etc. This is not far from reality but it is absolutely not to be considered a handicap: in fact, APPLE has done what all companies do, that is to obtain the best by optimizing the products and the know-how in its possession.

However Mac OS X has strongly evolved from what was originally the NeXT OS, as it is possible to learn more through the specific pages.