Continuing my 26-letter, non-stop A-Z compendium of all things Apple
Mac OS X
Apple had been planning to completely rewrite its Mac operating system since 1987, and had got itself in a right old mess with a project called Copeland that was about as successful as a North Korean rocket launch.
In the end it had to go out of house and buy Steve Jobs’ otherwise not-verygood company NeXT for its NeXTStep software as the basis of the next-gen Mac OS with an all-new codebase.
Buying NeXT also meant it got not just some decent code but its old founder and principal visionary back in control.
Former CEO Gil Amelio’s Mac OS 10 (he’d have never dreamt up using the Roman ‘X’) would have looked like Mac OS 9 with a bell and the odd cereal-box whistle. (Come to think of it, I wish there was a Whistle sound in Mac OS X – come back Gil, all is forgiven!)
The really neat thing about Mac OS X was that it boasted not just the modern codebase but a gorgeous new look (dubbed Aqua) while largely adhering to Apple’s sacred Human Interface Guidelines – and so behaved like the old Mac systems (top-screen pull-down menu, keyboard shortcuts, etc).
Aqua gave us full-colour scalable graphics, text and image anti-aliasing, simulated shading and highlights, transparency and shadows, and animation. At the bottom of the screen was the Dock application launcher that used all these capabilities to the max.
Mac OS X versions are all named after cats that don’t fit through a cat-flap (Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, and Lion), apart from 2000’s Public Beta, which was code-named “Kodiak” after the grizzly bear.
Final Cut Pro X
A lot less popular than Mac OS X was the announcement of the new version of Apple’s pro video-editing software Final Cut Pro, now dubbed Final Cut Pro X. Apple called it “jaw dropping”. Its jaw-dropped users called it “iMovie Pro” because it had ditched many of their favourite features to make it easier to use.
The Xbox grabs its place in Apple history by a piece of Microsoft skulduggery that enraged Steve Jobs even more than all its other acts of thievery and downright malice.
At a Macworld keynote in 2000 Jobs announced that developer Bungie would launch a Mac-only game called Halo. Bungie was welcomed on stage to demo the amazing shoot ‘em up, which had the games world dribbling at the mouth in anticipation. But soon it was Steve Jobs frothing at the mouth when Microsoft popped up, bought Bungie for $30m, canned its Mac-only games and launched Halo on its new Xbox games console instead of anywhere near a Mac.
Many of the amazing things we now heap praise on Apple for inventing were actually dreamed up by photocopier maker Xerox at its PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), which was stuffed full with the world’s greatest computer engineers and programmers.
The mouse, laser printers, Ethernet, bitmap graphics, WYSIWYG text editing – all were birthed at Xerox PARC, although most of them needed a helping hand to make it in the big, wide world.
Most famous of all its inventions is the Graphical User Interface (GUI), which might have come from the brilliant minds at PARC but is known throughout the world as the invention of Apple after Steve Jobs popped in for a look around one day in 1979 and came out with the idea that would make the Macintosh the first properly personal computer.
Jobs was persuaded by Jef Raskin to visit PARC and see all the goodies therein, and offered Xerox the option to buy 100,000 Apple shares for $1m if he could have a snoop around. Many at PARC were not happy to be giving away their secrets but the Xerox bosses wanted a slice of Apple just before its IPO and invited the fox into the henhouse.
When Steve saw the prototype Xerox Alto computer’s Smalltalk operating environment, three-button mouse and pop-up menus he didn’t even pretend to be polite about the possibilities. He started jumping around the room, shouting ‘Why aren’t you doing anything with this? This is the greatest thing. This is revolutionary!’
Of course, Apple added a hell of a lot to its Lisa and Mac GUIs (pull-down menus, drag-and-drop, the Finder, etc) but even Jobs couldn’t deny that his visit to Xerox PARC was at least ‘influential’.
Jobs said of the deal: “If Xerox had known what it had and had taken advantage of its real opportunities it could have been as big as IBM plus Microsoft plus Xerox combined – and the largest high-technology company in the world.”