Wednesday 24 March 2010

Many happy returns of the day Mac OS X

On 24/03/01 Apple released Mac OS X 10.0 to retail. However, my first tentative steps into this brave new world began on an iMac DV SE with the Public Preview Beta in October 2000.

The $29.95 entry fee offered me an early bird view of a bewildering and, at times, profoundly alienating experience. To add dramatic context: Steve Jobs was back as CEO, pundits were predicting Apple's demise (an AOL UK Director told me "The company should roll over and die!"), the iPod was a year away, and I knew of many Mac Users who'd switched to Windows. But, I remained loyal to a fault… This wasn't going to be a repeat of New Coke!

As befits a beta release. The 'gloopy' GUI was incomplete and unrefined in Mac OS X Public Preview. For example the Apple logo was placed at the centre of the menu bar and served no function whatsoever (besides branding). This wouldn't be the last time Apple would break its own Human Computer Interface (HCI) guidelines! Bad Apple.

Ultimately, all I could do was watch QuickTime demo clips from Columbia Tristar - Charlie's Angels - in protected memory (absent in Mac OS 9 and earlier), use AppleWorks 6 (a Carbon application) and send a 'wish list' to Apple's development team. That 'wish list' was very, very long.

Evolution of the species:

Mac OS X Public Preview Beta - September 13, 2000
10.0 Cheetah - March 24, 2001
10.1 Puma - September 25, 2001
10.2 Jaguar - August 24, 2002
10.3 Panther - October 24, 2003
10.4 Tiger - April 29, 2005
10.5 Leopard - October 26, 2007
10.6 Snow Leopard (Intel only) - August 28, 2009

In the early Noughties notable updates included Jaguar (10.2) heralding improved system responsiveness and Panther (10.3) paved the away, for me at least, to wave goodbye to Mac OS 9 (Classic) forever! By late 2003 all my preferred third party applications were natively supported and, frankly, I detested Mac OS Classic and its old world foibles. Incidentally, whatever happened to Panther's 'Piles', which mysteriously disappeared in the release candidate?

The Aqua Graphical User Interface (GUI) set a trend whereby Apple's GUI designers spent too many hours tinkering in Photoshop and had conjured up an inconsistent UI - brush metal and stripes anyone? Thankfully, the stripes of Cheetah (10.0) quickly made way for the 'plastic' of Tiger (10.4) and this has been refined into the unobtrusive elegance of Snow Leopard (10.6). That's my kind of eye candy.

The transition from PowerPC to Intel was inspired and relatively seamless in my experience; enabling users to switch natively (emulation notwithstanding) between a Mac and Windows world (if required). Snow Leopard (10.6) has ushered-in 64-bit support and my aging Intel-based iMac (2007) is 'snappier' too. What would you like to see Apple add to Mac OS X in the future?

Lastly. Mac OS X 10.6.3 would be a great birthday gift to loyal Mac Users everywhere. How about it, Apple?

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