Archive for March 24, 2021

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Mac OS X at 20

Juli Clover (tweet):

On March 24, 2001, a Saturday, Apple began allowing customers to purchase Mac OS X, the successor to the classic Mac OS. The first version of Mac OS X, “Cheetah,” was famous for its “Aqua” interface with a water bubble-style design for everything from windows to buttons.

Jason Snell (tweet):

I’ve written a lot about Mac OS X over the years. Compiling that timeline reminded me of that. I was a features editor at Macworld when Apple began shipping OS X precursors, and so I edited most of our early coverage. Beginning with Mac OS X 10.1, I wrote most of Macworld’s big feature stories covering each release.


(While I wrote shorter reviews for Macworld, John Siracusa was always reviewing OS X at length for Ars Technica. Here’s a list of all his reviews.)

Joachim Fornallaz:

Fun fact: Mac OS X required a Mac with at least 128 MB of RAM, the same amount the original iPhone shipped with 6 years later.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Unless you have an old PowerMac lying around, the only way for you to run this today is via emulation, in qemu-system-ppc. If that’s a rabbit hole you want to jump into today, check out the Emaculation wiki.


Update (2021-07-03): Ken Case:

Here’s what the @OmniGroup home page looked like when Mac OS X shipped 20 years ago

Armin Briegel:

Back then, it was essential that Apple move forward from ‘classic’ Mac OS. Protected memory, multi-user setups, and support for multiple applications running safely side-by-side were the main advantages of Mac OS X over Mac OS 9. But Mac OS X also brought with it the Unix core (and shell), a new display technology, and the Cocoa frameworks.

The transition was rough for the existing Mac users. The early versions were not as complete and stable as one would have hoped. The processing requirements of early Mac OS X pushed existing Mac hardware to their limits. Many application vendors dragged their feet adopting Mac OS X and the new technologies and features available.

But Mac OS X made the Mac interesting for a whole new group of people. It was the only platform at then time that they had Microsoft and Adobe productivity app as well as the Unix shell and tools available. This was a huge bonus for web designers and developers, but also for scientists.

Tony Fadell:

Coincidentally, 20 years ago today, Stan Ng (Marketing), Jeff Robbin (iTunes) & I pitched Steve Jobs the P68 Dulcimer project.

8 months later that project became the iPod.

John Gruber:

I suspect the pitching for P68 took place on March 23 (a Friday), but (a) maybe those folks really were working six days a week, and (b) there’s no question Apple was truly firing on all cylinders in 2001.

Ng and Robbin are still at Apple. Ng has led Apple Watch product marketing since it debuted, and Robbin is still in charge of Apple’s Music apps (and I think apps like TV and Podcasts too — anything derived from SoundJam iTunes).

Joe Cieplinski:

Looking back, I have to say the Dock and Column View are the two most significant UI enhancements OS X brought to my world. Nothing has changed my daily desktop computing habits more in the 20 years since.

Riccardo Mori:

While I’m working on a proper article to celebrate 20 years of Mac OS X, here’s a brief visual tour of Mac OS X 10.0.3 I published back in 2008 on my other blog, System Folder.

Basic Apple Guy:

20 Years in the “evolution” of System Preferences on Mac OS X

John Siracusa:

If you’d like to look back at my writing on the subject, here’s a collection of links.

James Dempsey:

Twenty years ago, I was working in Apple Technical Training getting Mac OS X development and system administration courses out into the world.

What an amazing couple of decades!

Ken Harris:

For the Mac OS X anniversary, one of my first experiences with it:

Adobe Illustrator 10 claimed to support Mac OS X. It shipped just after Mac OS X 10.1, and did technically run on that OS — but its installer did not.

Maybe they assumed everyone would install on OS 9 and then upgrade the OS.

After a few hours on the phone with Adobe tech support, I think they finally came up with some way to muck with the installer files to allow it to complete on X.

Josh Centers:

I started out writing about the 20th anniversary of Mac OS X and accidentally wrote a love letter to Gil Amelio. Purchasing NeXT was like a season of nothing but strike-outs except for a home run that won the World Series.

Rui Carmo:

Strange to think that these days I have plenty more UNIX-centric options and yet there is no real (user-friendly, end-to-end) equivalent to it and its ecosystem (although WSL is tipping the scales heavily, no form of Linux is truly equivalent).

Stephen Hackett:

All of that eye candy came at a cost, though. Performance in the early versions of Mac OS X was notoriously bad as the hardware caught up. By the time most users were ready to switch from Mac OS 8 or 9, OS X was in pretty decent shape.

If you want to learn more about Mac OS X, I’ve rounded up some links for you[…]

John Voorhees:

Today, with Mac OS X gone and Intel chipsets not far behind, I thought it would be fun to look back at OS X and the transition to it compared to the recent switch to macOS 11 Big Sur.

Howard Oakley:

One thing I do remember repeatedly is the persistent flakiness of the Mac’s file system. Despite the promise of Mac OS X to protect the operating system from the effects of other software crashing, a lot of effort had to be put into preventing HFS+ from developing serious errors. Yet it wasn’t until Mac OS X 10.2.2 in 2002 that Apple introduced journalling to work around those problems, to a degree. Even then, after any serious crash, the cautious Mac user restarted their Mac to ensure that its file system didn’t slide steadily down the slippery slope to serious faults. Whole products like DiskWarrior were built on this lasting Achilles heel, and some days I seemed to be forever fscking around in Single-User Mode.

Just four years ago yesterday (27 March) – with iOS 10.3 – Apple introduced its replacement, APFS. Since then, this new file system has come to epitomise Apple, its strengths, endearing features, and flaws.

Chris Hynes:

Steve Jobs got up on stage at MacWorld New York in the summer of 2000 to tell everyone the progress of Mac OS X. A round of applause followed him saying that everything was on schedule.


He said they were going to change the name of the releases. The fall 2000 release would now be Public Beta and the final release would be in the spring of 2001.


Hardly. That’s what you call a final release that is 6 months away.

But he got away with it.

Shared Shortcuts URLs Broken

Matthew Cassinelli (tweet, Reddit, Federico Viticci):

Hello all – we’re currently experiencing a fairly major outage for iCloud links related to Shortcuts, and at the moment almost every shortcut that has been shared in the past cannot be installed.


This is still developing and, while it does seem like it’s possible to resolve, I shared a thread where I highlighted how major issues like this are eroding the larger trust in Shortcuts, especially outside the current community – this is a crisis moment for Shortcuts.

I hope Apple is able to dedicate resources to fully overcoming the technical debt accrued inside the Shortcuts ecosystem, as well as restoring trust in the community – the people who are in this community and our ideas for how to use shortcuts are stronger than ever, but we’re constantly trying to stand on uneven ground.

Update (2021-07-02): Mike Rockwell:

It would be cool if you could still add .shortcut files instead of fully relying on iCloud links.

Federico Viticci:

I wrote this about Shortcuts and sharing in 2019. I’m just going to leave it here.

Nick Heer:

This has been all over my Twitter timeline for hours, but Apple’s iCloud status webpage is still all green — everything is apparently just fine with Shortcuts.

Juli Clover:

Apple has now fixed the problem, and links to Shortcuts on the web should be largely functional again.

Big Sur’s Sidebar Translucency

Nick Heer (tweet):

But, screen fidelity aside, it was clear after a day that using Catalina felt cramped and messy. Icons and text in the menu bar were not as well-aligned. Rows in the Finder were squished together like every pixel on the display remained precious real estate.

Big Sur changed all of that for the better. There is subtly more space around many interface elements, and there is a clearer sense of structure. But it also introduced problems for readability, many of which are the result of an obsession with translucency and brightness.


That is dark grey text atop a mid-grey button texture in a light grey sidebar. Subjectively, I find it unpleasant to look at; more objectively, it has insufficient contrast. It is the same with the Search field located in an application’s Help menu[…]


Nevertheless, the rest of the system behaves as though the foreground window is comprised of panes of glass, and the background windows are made of solid plastic. Often, this means background windows actually have better contrast than windows in the foreground. […] Several MacOS apps are similarly more legible when they are in the background: Music, Contacts, Calendar’s single day view, Dictionary, and Voice Memos — to name a handful.


Big Sur’s Gray Menu Keyboard Shortcuts

Dr. Drang:

The M1 MacBook Air is the only machine I have running Big Sur, and for the first few days I kept wondering why certain commands were disabled. They weren’t—I was confused about their status because the gray keyboard shortcut was catching my eye and the black command name wasn’t. It wasn’t until I slowed down and looked at the menus carefully that I noticed the contradictory text coloring.

I’ve been using Macs since 1985, and gray text in a menu item has always meant “disabled.” This was true even though early Macs didn’t have true gray. Among Mac users, “grayed out” is a synonym for “disabled” and has been for ages. Now, because looking cool is taking precedence over clear communication, we have menu items that tell us the command is available but the keyboard shortcut isn’t.

Nick Heer:

The presentation of keyboard shortcuts is in that same vein: by making them grey, the thinking presumably went, the command becomes more prominent and indicates availability, while the keyboard shortcut is still shown for those who need it. But is this a problem that needs solving? Are even the pickiest designers bothered by the apparent clutter of keyboard shortcuts in menus? If you want to consider it a problem, this solution means that the keyboard shortcut is hard to read and the meaning of grey text is ambiguous.

Oh, and for extra measure, it is compounded by physical keyboards that do not share the same markings.

Jason Snell:

I always sensed that something was wrong in Big Sur’s menus, but I thought it was the strange decision to have curved edges on the top portions of the drop-down, which breaks the metaphor that they’re connected to the solid edge of the menu bar. But graying out (and that is absolutely what I call it) keyboard shortcuts is also weird and wrong.