OS X Through the Ages

On Saturday, March 24, the long-awaited OS X will have officially arrived. How long-awaited? If you count the precursor projects Pink, Copland, and Rhapsody, we've waited more than nine years.

But we're only counting the latest OS X news. Here's a guide to Macworld's OS X coverage from 1998 on, recalling the milestones in OS X development and what they mean for those of us who will be using the new operating system.

August 1998
Macworld outlines OS X features, including Carbon, preemptive multitasking, and protected memory. A sidebar reports an OS X beta in winter 1999; final version of OS X in summer 2000.

The August coverage also notes that OS X development coincided with a critical period for Apple: after the trials of OS X predecessors -- Copeland, Gershwin, and Rhapsody -- the company badly needed to demonstrate that it could conceive of, develop, and deliver an innovative operating system.

September 1998
Third-party developers express their pleasure with Apple's OS X plans. Says one, Apple is "doing the right things to serve the needs of professional publishing and digital-content creators."

January 1999
Steve Jobs demonstrates OS X Server during the Expo keynote by connecting 49 iMacs to one server and running a QuickTime movie. The display shows that multiple Macs can be configured and booted from a single server, thus permitting users to move toward a more network-oriented model of computer use.

February 1999
Apple demonstrates a suite of tools for the soon-to-be-released OS X Server. Most of the demonstrated applications work by porting the vendor's existing Unix version to the Unix base of OS X.

March 1999
Steve Jobs surprises veteran Apple-watchers by announcing that key parts of OS X will be released as open source. He also drops the price of the now-shipping OS X Server from $999 to $499. The open source announcement is hailed as a sign that Apple recognizes the forces at play in the general high-tech market.

Apple also hopes to gain improvements for their OS X server from the programming public: "It's as if we had hired a huge bunch of programmers for free," asserts Ernie Prabhakar, Apple's product manager for Mac OS X Server. "We'll have a final product with better performance and new features."

May 1999
A preview of Quartz, the image-rendering model for OS X, is shown to the attendees at the Apple World Wide Developers' Conference (WWDC). Quartz is based on Adobe's portable document format, which is supposed to help preserve imaging data as it moves across several applications.

Developers praise Apple for sticking to its predicted OS X development roadmap, although they did raise a few eyebrows at the renaming and reclassification of some OS X components: the component used to run pre-OS X applications on OS X, Mac OS Blue Box, had been renamed to Mac Classic and the Yellow Box, a development environment for new OS X software, is now called Cocoa. Carbon, the third element of OS X and the one used for running applications developed specifically for OS X, remains unchanged.

July 1999
Macworld reviews OS X server, giving it three-and-a-half mice. OS X Server was predictably strong in the client/server model (i.e. the ability to configure and run several different machines off one server) but weak when it came to actual file and Web serving.

August 1999
Macworld offers a preview of what Mac users can expect in the year 2000: machines running OS X with a new, improved Finder; preemptive multitasking; and a clean interface. By "new, improved Finder," what Apple actually meant was a Next-derived file browser; the decision to supplant a well-documented and frequently used Mac OS feature with a new mode of finding the computer's contents is somewhat controversial.

January 2000
Apple introduces the interface for OS X -- dubbed "Aqua" -- to the Macworld Expo attendees. The notable interface features included translucency, which enables users to see the contents of windows as they're stacked atop one another; three-dimensional icon and window design; single-window mode, in which only one window is available at a time; and a dock storing the applications and documents available on the desktop.

Macworld also reports that OS X is still on target for delivery by the end of 2000; new Macs are supposed to come with a final version of the new operating system installed through the latter period of 2000, and older operating systems will be phased out of new Macs by January 2001.

May 2000
Work on OS X continues apace. Apple releases the fourth developer preview of OS X at WWDC. Steve Jobs says, "There are no more reasons you shouldn't be developing [for OS X]." Other notable DP 4 changes: the Finder looks more familiar and less browser-like, and the dock is less obtrusive.

Also at WWDC: Steve Jobs deftly delays the final release date for OS X again. The operating system, which was to have been rolled out in final form by summer 2000, is now expected in January 2001. Developers are mostly unfazed by this newest date.

The other large population awaiting the release of OS X -- Apple users hoping to get their hands on a beta release -- learns that a public beta version of OS X was due out during the summer.

June 2000
Computer users and interface gurus weigh in on Aqua. Columinst David Pogue counters, "The thing is, most of the criticism concerns the Aqua look -- not Mac OS X as a whole. That's like critiquing the deck chairs on the Titanic."

July 2000
Macworld Expo in New York City debuts several stylish new pieces of hardware, but no beta version of OS X.

August 2000
Macworld notes the long and winding road Apple's latest operating system has taken; the timeline includes OS X precursor projects Copeland and Rhapsody, two OS products that never made it to the general market.

September 2000
Technically, summer doesn't end until September 21. A public beta version of OS X is supposed to debut at Apple Expo in Paris, France during the week of September 11, thus fulfilling Steve Jobs' promise to release OS X beta in summer 2000.

Macworld focuses on exploring specific components of OS X, providing a tour of the much-discussed Aqua interface; a closer look at the Dock feature in the interface; and an explanation of how the underlying Unix layer in OS X works.

Users who are anxious about not being able to function in OS X can skim through a compare-and-contrast guide that maps standard OS 9 features to the OS X beta; users who are wary of a Carbonized planet can get a quick primer on switching between the operating system's Carbon and Classic modes.

Finally, Brett Larson begins his you-are-there account of working with the OS X beta on a daily basis.

December 2000
The OS X Beta Survival Guide walks would-be beta testers through the process of installing and exploring the new operating system. After establishing initial system requirements and best practices for would-be testers -- such as advising "Don't Install the Beta on a Mac You Can't Live Without" -- the survival guide goes on to lead the wary reader through understanding the new, Unix-like folder structure and working within a different user interface model.

January 2001
Steve Jobs introduces OS X modifications in his Macworld Expo keynote address. The biggest changes: improved functionality on the Finder and the aggregation of system commands like Sleep and Shut Down under the Apple menu on the left-hand side of the screen. Jobs also promises March 24, 2001 as the ship date for OS X.

February 2001
Apple reverses its previous statements on pricing for OS X beta or final software. In September, the company had stated that it had no plans to offer a rebate to anyone who had purchased the $30 beta software; now, it plans to offer a rebate for beta purchasers.

March 2001
On March 21, the press gets to take home copies of OS X; the emphasis on OS X's imminent release is that an imperfect operating system in the hand is infinitely preferable to a perfect piece of vaporware.

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