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Introduction

Introduction

Without a doubt, Mac OS X is a stunning technical achievement. In fact, many tech reviewers and experts have called it the best personal-computer operating system on earth. But beware its name.

The X is meant to be a Roman numeral, pronounced "ten." Unfortunately, many people see "Mac OS X" and say "Mac O.S. ex." That's a sure way to get funny looks in public.

Then there's the "Mac OS" part—what a misnomer! Mac OS X is not, in fact, what millions of people think of as the Mac OS. Apple designed Mac OS X to look something like the old Mac system software, and certain features have been written to work like they used to. But all of that is just an elaborate fake-out. Mac OS X is an utterly new creation. It's not so much Mac OS X, in other words, as Steve Jobs 1.0.

If you've never used a computer before, none of this matters. You have nothing to unlearn. You'll find an extremely simple, beautifully designed desktop waiting for you.

But if you're one of the millions of people who have grown accustomed to Windows or the traditional Mac OS, Mac OS X may come as a bit of a shock. Hundreds of features you thought you knew have been removed, replaced, or relocated. (If you ever find yourself groping for an old, favorite feature, see Appendix C and Appendix D—the "Where'd it go?" dictionaries for Mac OS 9 and Windows refugees.)

Why did Apple throw out the operating system that made it famous to begin with? Well, through the years, as Apple piled new features onto a software foundation originally poured in 1984, performing nips and tucks to the ancient software to make it resemble something modern, the original foundation was beginning to creak. Programmers (and some users) complained of the "spaghetti code" that the Mac OS had become.

Apple felt that there wasn't much point in undertaking a dramatic system-software overhaul if they couldn't master every key feature of modern computer technology in the process, especially crash-proofness. Starting from scratch—and jettisoning the system software we'd come to know over the years—was the only way to do it.

The result is an operating system that provides a liberating sense of freedom and stability—but one that, for existing computer fans, requires a good deal of learning (and forgetting).

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