Thursday, Mar 25, 2021, 14:46 Mac: Software

20 Years Of Mac OS X & The Beginning Of A New Era For Mac

March 2001 marked the beginning of a new age for Apple, carrying even more meaning than a change in processor architecture. With the release of Mac OS X 10.0 in March 2001, the more than half-a-year-long public beta came to an end, resulting in a large step into the future. In multiple respects, the classic Mac OS was technologically outdated, lacking both data protection and preemptive multitasking. These oversights had serious consequences, as whichever software was selected in the foreground occupied almost the entire Mac. Stated concretely, a stuck print dialog occupied the entire screen and nothing else could be run. Apple's attempts to create an entirely new system (Copeland) had previously shattered – but with the company's acquisition of NeXT secured the technical foundation to finally do so, allowing the company to get Mac OS X off the ground.

Mac OS X Did Almost Everything Over Again
Instead of developing Mac OS 9 further, Apple settled upon Mac OS X 10.0, an operating system basically constructed from the ground up using UNIX as a basis and adopting multiple elements of NEXTSTEP. However, after release, many users began to ask themselves the question, "Had Apple just made a mistake?" Especially when it came to G3 computers, the performance was so bad that keystrokes only registered on the screen after a delay. The majority of commercial software also had yet to be adapted to the new OS – driving companies away from the new system. Kernels could even be sent into a panic when the mouse was unplugged – DVDs also couldn't be played and most printers weren't recognized.



Public beta with Apple at the center.

An Impressive Interface, Yet Too Slow
The aqua-interface was superb and met with much praise. Shadows and glossy effects lent the system an as of yet unseen appearance. The philosophy behind "aqua" was for individual elements of UI to have a "liquidy" appearance. Almost all of the interface's buttons behaved like a drop of oil to deliberately stand out from the surface. However, even more users would have been impressed if the changes to the UI had been met with adequate computing power.

The final version of Mac OS X 10.0.

Mac OS 10.1 Came Quickly – & Fixed Most Errors
Users didn't have to wait long for the first update to the new operating system – Mac OS X 10.0 came with simply too many errors. Due to the heavy criticism received by the first version of Mac OS X, Apple decided to release Mac OS X 10.1 (Puma) on September 25th, 2001 as a free update (the following version, Mac OS X 10.2, costed US$129). Puma brought with it a noticeable upgrade to performance, the new software update brought support for access to most digital cameras and scanners, as well as drivers for most popular printers. The "DVD Player" also appeared, and at this point, the developer community was hard at work on making programs to run natively on Mac OS X. Slowly, the new OS began to attract more and more users, as its potential became more apparent.

Mac OS X "Puma" in use.

20 Years Later: Mac OS X/10 Becomes macOS 11
The "X" in "Mac OS X" stood, of course, for the 10 (given that 9 was the preceding version) – however, it was also a play on the UNI"X" platform used as a foundation for the operating system. Apple kept the designation for almost 2 decades and a total of 15 10.x releases. It was only in September 2020 that Mac OS X stepped aside to make way for macOS 11, the "next version" of Apple's computer operating system. In Mac OS X's almost 20 year history, and especially in the realms of marketing at Apple, the version number held a background spot when it came to the software's designation. A trend that started with Mac OS X "Jaguar" 10.2, whereafter following versions of the software were named after species of cats. Mac OS X "Mavericks" 10.9 brought an end to this trend and the birth of a new one – the use of locations for software version names. It wasn't until Big Sur that the integer version number was changed from 10 to 11.

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