Preliminary versions, Kodiak and Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah” [Mac OS X history special]

Apple had just bought NeXT, and work had to start on creating the new operating system for the new generation of Macs that were to save the company, at the end of the 90s. It was an important, critical and exciting moment in the Mac world: Steve Jobs and his new team were playing with this refloat of the company, and they knew they had to repeat the formula from which Apple was born. And that was by having a dazzling hardware and an innovative operating system . The machines were already on the street, something had to be done with Mac OS .

The company announced the name of a new operating system, Mac OS X, which reads “officially” as “Mac OS Ten”. The “X” belongs to a play on words because it contains a UNIX kernel and is the tenth iteration of the product. Developers were warned: A huge transition was coming, as Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9 (hereinafter referred to as “Classic”) applications would become obsolete in a short period of time.

Preliminary versions, Kodiak and Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah” [Mac OS X history special]
Preliminary versions, Kodiak and Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah” [Mac OS X history special]

The machine community was both enthusiastic and restless. A change of this magnitude in “the heart” of their machines could make them obsolete before their time, or rather orphan their applications on an operating system that is not compatible with them. Apple listened at this point and promised that the transition would not be so abrupt. And he set to work.

Rhapsody, the operating system between two worlds

The image you see above belongs to the second Rhapsody Developer Release, an operating system built to establish a connection bridge between OPENSTEP and the future Mac OS X. In fact, it is basically an OPENSTEP with a new user interface, better defined according to Apple’s own style guides and some of the company’s own programs such as the well-known Quicktime.

I’m sure you didn’t get a good look at the picture. Look at it again. You don’t see anything funny? Nothing strange in the Workspace Manager information window? Exactly, you’re not seeing mirages, it was running on a Pentium processor. This is because the NeXT operating systems were compatible with Intel’s x86 architecture, although Rhapsody was also compiled, obviously, for PowerPC.

The issue of dual compilation in Mac OS X didn’t start with the 2005 announcement of the switch to Intel. As we’ve discussed elsewhere in the blog, Apple has had each and every version of Mac OS X compiled for Intel, as Steve Jobs said in his keynote “Just in case…” (“just in case…”). However, at the moment we are in history, Apple could not afford a renewal of the design of its machines, a change of its processors, and a rethinking of its operating system. It would have been suicide for a company with the right resources at the time.

Rhapsody would just be a transitional operating system. It was more of a testing ground for combining technologies and deciding which ones to leave out, and which ones to move on. There were two versions of Rhapsody, and at the 1998 Macworld, Steve Jobs announced that Rhapsody would be released to the public as Mac OS X Server 1.0, on March 16, 1999.

Mac OS X Developer Preview

The developers saw that the advances of the new operating system were important, and they needed a preliminary version to start developing their applications, so they had to prepare for the future. Many of them even stopped the development of their applications because they didn’t know whether to opt for development on Mac OS 9 or to wait and jump to X. They also didn’t know what Apple’s plans were for public adoption of Mac OS X, and how long it would take their customers to get it.

On May 10th 1999 Apple released the first Developer Preview of the “home” version of Mac OS X. It was a version with the right technologies to start migrating applications, a version very similar to what Rhapsody was at the time. It couldn’t be replaced as a complete operating system, as it was unfinished and many of its features still didn’t work.

In November of that same year a new Developer Preview (the DP2) was released, well known at the time because developers finally saw the path Apple intended to follow. The “Finder” icon appears for the first time, located in the upper right corner:

In these PDs, Apple offered developers three layers to enable their applications to run on Mac OS X, and made the transition between generations of operating systems more convenient:

  • Classic, which could run almost any application from Mac OS 9 and earlier “as is”, on Mac OS X.
  • Carbon, offered developers new features of Mac OS X, over their applications already created in previous operating systems.
  • Cocoa, the native layer of Mac OS X based on the powerful object-oriented programming languages, which allowed you to take full advantage of the new technologies of Apple’s future operating system.

The graphical interface finally advanced like the rest of the operating system. It was a more mature graphical interface, designed to be intuitive and very pleasing to the eye. This is what the future of Mac OS X would look like, many people thought. No one doubted it. However, Steve Jobs released a “One more thing…” in the keynote of the 2000 Macworld that would change everything.

Aqua, Apple’s secret interface for Mac OS X

Steve Jobs surprised the world when he announced that they had been working in complete secrecy for 18 months on a new user interface, completely different from anything seen on personal computers before, and that it was driving the state-of-the-art feel of their Macs. He introduced Aqua, the most awarded, praised and copied user interface in the history of operating systems.

Today we are already witnessing the disappearance of Aqua as an interface: only small reminiscences of it remain in some controls such as the scroll bars, buttons… But the global design of Mac OS X is changing towards something else (perhaps something more iPhone OS, in terms of design, who knows…). However, put yourself in a situation and think how revolutionary it was to present photorealistic buttons and amazing usability in the era of Windows 2000 or Windows Me.

Jobs announced that the DP3 already incorporated the new interface, and that the developers should get to work to familiarize themselves with it. With all of you, the first version of Mac OS X with Aqua, known as Mac OS X DP3:

Curiosities, there are many. The most striking is the apple icon in the centre of the menu bar. Later on, users would ask Apple to put it back on the left, which was changed in later versions (until today). You can also see the Dock, a simplified concept of what already existed in NeXTSTEP and even in Mac OS 9, with surprising graphic effects for the time, such as enlargement or “suction” when minimizing.

As an operating system, it was still unstable and needed a lot of work still. However, the developers already had something solid in their hands and started working with it. Although the DP3 still inherited many problems and interfaces not covered by the previous graphical appearance, the possibilities were enormous.

On September 13th 2000, Apple released for the first time to the public, a preliminary version of Mac OS X. It didn’t even have a version number yet, although internally it was known as “Kodiak”. It was an iteration of the previous DP’s with which Apple wanted to get “feedback” from users: It was time for the community to talk.

It was put on sale for a price of $29.95, and the participation of the people got important modifications at the interface level, such as the change of the icon that we have mentioned Apple and a redistribution of the navigation levels in some windows, which were inherited from NeXTSTEP. Some icons already started to be changed by the ones we all know today (like the ones on the hard drive). The public beta “Kodiak” had a maximum lifetime: In 2001 it would be deactivated and stopped working, making way for what would be the first official version of Mac OS X, and the birth of an operating system.

Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah”

The first official Mac OS X will be more familiar to you. The dock changed its appearance from preliminary betas to show only the silhouette of icons as it exists today. Transparencies are incorporated, window textures are softened, and you start to see the metallic interface that characterized the first version of iTunes (with its now strange three-note icon).

All that glittered (and glittered a lot) was not gold: Cheetah still presented very serious problems that caused numerous “Kernel Panics”. Apple later fixed this with system updates, but the public was very critical of the company because they thought it was not yet mature enough for general adoption.

Also, despite the Classic support available, people wanted native applications and there were very few of them. Perhaps the implementation of Mac OS X was too slow (from the end of 1996, with the purchase of NeXT, until 2000) and the company gave too many lurches until it settled its key technologies, disconcerting the developers.

However, the launch of Cheetah was part of a more ambitious plan: It was nothing less than putting a new operating system in the hands of consumers so that they would start putting pressure on developers who were undecided about whether or not to port their applications to Cocoa. And boy did they succeed. For its part, Apple learned a lot from their mistakes and promised a new version of Mac OS X for that same year, with the missing features and a very strong bug fix.

That’s where Mac OS X 10.1 “Puma” was born. And the disappearance of Mac OS 9 was very close.

Similar Posts