20 years of Mac OS X: Apple’s success story began slowly and strange


Mac OS X 10.0 was a shock for many Mac users: When the operating system went on sale on March 24, 2001 – in Germany at a price of DM 329 – it not only looked strange with its Unix substructure, it worked also incredibly slow. And yet it was already clear then that it was the future, because “Classic Mac OS” was technically on the sidelines for a long time: It was only OS X that provided a modern, object-oriented operating system with preemptive multitasking, multithreading and memory protection for programs – all of that was missing Mac until then.

To great applause, Steve Jobs had announced the prospect of the new operating system almost three years before the start of sales – a combination of the NextStep-based Rhapsody and Mac OS. The colorful user interface Aqua was only unveiled a year earlier in early 2000, and it still determines the appearance of macOS to this day.

Apple screwed back an interface change in the public beta of Mac OS X in the final version: Instead of placing a functionless Apple logo in the middle of the menu bar, Apple moved the classic Apple menu back to the left, there it is to this day and gives quick access to central functions of the operating system.

Mac OS 9 was released in October 1999 and was the last version of the old Apple operating system. Almost 20 years after the introduction of the first Macintosh, it no longer met the requirements of a modern operating system. For example, it only mastered the outdated cooperative multitasking, in which the OS does not distribute the resources centrally. If the programs take care of the necessary computing power themselves, they often get in each other’s way. At that time, the Mac OS also did not have a protected memory management system, so that applications kept crashing each other. In addition, there was no real multi-user administration; the classic Mac OS only faked this with differently designed desktop environments.

According to Apple, 350 programs were natively ready for Mac OS X at the start of sales. Andreas Beier wrote on heise online 20 years ago: “One of the first is Internet Explorer from Microsoft, which is included in a stable preview. The major operating system competitor also has announced the porting of his office suite to Mac OS X. Most of the existing programs should run without problems in the Classic environment, a kind of emulator with an unchanged Mac OS 9.1. ”

It was also clear to Apple that Mac OS X 10.0 was hardly usable for everyday use: In addition to a CD with the new operating system, the manufacturer also put a full version of Mac OS 9.1 in the box – as well as a developer-relevant CD with developer tools . Mac OS X was then preinstalled on new Macs from mid-2001, but for years only in parallel with Mac OS 9. At the same time, Apple quickly stepped up: Mac OS X 10.1 was released in autumn 2001, followed by Mac OS X 10.2 in August 2002 – both were running on new Macs with G4 processors then already at an acceptable speed.

On March 24, 2001, Apple released the first official version of the new operating system, Mac OS X 10.0, codenamed Cheetah. It gave users back their beloved Mac menu. In addition, the system ran noticeably faster than the almost unusable public beta. Nevertheless, it took a good deal of chutzpah to offer a system that was still extremely slow for 329 DM. In addition, digital video editors could not do anything with Mac OS X because there was no software that could address cameras. Cheetah should have been the public beta version.

More from Mac & i

More from Mac & i

The Unix substructure of the operating system will serve Apple as a solid foundation for the next decade, promised Steve Jobs at the time and was right, but fell short: Mac OS X is still the basis of all Apple operating systems – including iOS on the iPhone. This means that the operating system now not only has a user base in the billions, but also helped transform the company into one of the most valuable companies in the world in terms of market capitalization, bypassing the impending bankruptcy.


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years Mac Apples success story began slowly strange


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