OS X Mavericks Mac logo

I’ve always loved a Mac OS update. There have been times when I banged my stupid Apple-believing head on the desk when said new version of the Mac OS stubbornly refused to work with my Photoshop *, XPress, Outlook, or my (literally) blinking printer. But this anger is soon directed – via Apple noiselessly implanting its pleading reason into my willing brain – at Adobe, Quark, Microsoft or Canon for not being ready for Apple’s new OS with its fancy new features and suddenly hidden important folders.

My first Mac OS update was System 7 in 1991. Strangely I have no recollection of loading 15 floppy disks into my Macintosh LC in order to have the Trash Can not dump its contents every time I Shut Down. Oh, and the other “4,000,007” reasons to upgrade Apple boasted at the time.

Apple System 7 Mac OS upgrade

See: Apple A-Z: Everything you need to know about Apple.

System 7 was wildly popular – maybe because it was free. You did have to pay Apple to ship the disks to you but Apple was OK for its users to share those floppies around. Apple dealers even let you pop in and duplicate their System 7 disks using their own demo machines. (Steve Jobs was not at Apple at this time.)

Or you could download it from AOL or CompuServe.

The same wasn’t true for the following year’s System 7.1, which was the first version of Mac OS that you had to pay for. What did you get for your money? Why, the new Font Folder, of course.

Apple’s OS naming was a bit dull, though. The code names, as ever, were great. System 7 was known to its engineers as “Big Bang”. The codename guys maybe overshot somewhat when they titled 7.1.1 “System 7 Pro” despite it being little more than a collection of bug fixes.

Apple System 7.5 Capone upgrade box disc

System 7.5 was such a bad boy that it was known (within Apple) as “Capone” – a little dig at Microsoft’s Chicago nickname for Windows 95. Users fell off their chairs when first turning on System 7.5 – Apple had added a progress bar during start up. Then, just as they’d got up, they fainted again when they saw the new Clock in the Menu Bar. There were Stickies – the most advanced skeuomorphic widget yet – little Post-It notes you could virtually stick on your screen. WindowShade, The Launcher… 7.5 was like buying a whole new Mac.

Mac OS 8 box

The next biggie was 1997’s Mac OS 8 – really just 7.7 but renamed just to terminate third-party Mac cloners’ licences to System 7. Yes, Steve was back in charge. There was a new greyscale look called Platinum. But the main reason it sold over a million copies in its first two weeks was that loyal Mac users dug deep to help save Apple – unbelievable now, but back then Apple was sleeping in the tech business gutter.

After Mac OS 9 (hello Sherlock search engine) the real fun started with Mac OS X. OS X was a quantum leap from OS 9, which limped on as Classic Mode so we could keep playing Civilization II on our new Macs.

Apple Mac OS X boxes

Mac OS X was a cool new name but as new versions appeared Apple needed to give each its own personality. The Public Beta of OS X was code-named Kodiak, after the giant Alaskan bear, but Apple gave up the grisly theme for big cats from version 10.0 (code-named Cheetah) and 10.1 (Puma). Finally with OS X 10.2 Apple put the big-cat name upfront and Jaguar was the first version of Mac OS to have a proper name and not just a number.

Panther, Tiger and Leopard followed suit, but then Apple got distracted by its cute new iPhone and spent less time on the boring old Mac OS. It wasn’t that Apple had run out of big cats it’s just that the updates were pretty minor – so Leopard became Snow Leopard, and Lion turned into Mountain Lion. It still charged you for them, but not that much.

So along comes OS X 10.9 Mavericks – shockingly making big cats extinct on the desktop. Personally I hate the name. The new theme is places in California, which must be fun if you live in California but yawningly parochial for the rest of us. See: OS X Mavericks review.

Three cheers then that Mavericks is now, just like System 7, a free download. As a whole new non-cat family Mavericks should have been a radical new look like iOS 7 was to iOS 6. But it looks almost identical. Even the wallpaper hasn’t changed. Where Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion were more of a trim than a new hair cut, Mavericks reminds me of that Monty Python sketch where the barber stands behind the customer with a tape recording of snipping scissors.

Half of the so-called features are just engineering tricks to make up for Mac hardware limitations. And guess who makes the hardware.

There's an update to Safari, but since when did we expect to pay for a browser update? Labelling this as a feature is pushing the idea of "free" too far.

Tabs and tags are nice but hardly revolutionary. And as for Apple Maps – I'd say "Go Jump In A Lake" but you'd never find it.

Apple gave this away because it feels like a minor update – there really aren't that many major new features. Lion + minor features = Mountain Lion. Mountain Lion + minor features = Mountain Lion Cub..? Nah, call it Mavericks and make it sound like a major upgrade. But don't make people pay for it. So, all round, you get something (minor) for nothing, and everyone is happy. Sure, but it’s no System 7.5. Maverick maybe. Gangster, no.

* Actually Mavericks is incompatible with Adobe Photoshop! Luckily I found an easy fix: How to open Adobe Photoshop in OS X Mavericks.