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May 1998. After hours of driving, I arrived at the conference hall just in time to see the World Wide Developer conference keynote speech by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. We, the Apple faithful, had been waiting years for this event. Within minutes, we'd know when the new modern revision of Mac OS would ship. In late 1996, Apple Computer purchased NeXT Computer in order to gain access to its advanced OpenStep operating system. At the developer conference in 1997, we saw the first signs of life when OpenStep booted on Macintosh hardware for the first time. Now, in mid 1998, we fully expected Apple to proclaim that the operating system was rapidly approaching a release date. Instead, we heard an announcement that would shock everyone: The operating system codenamed Rhapsody was not destined for the Mac desktop. Instead, a new “similar” system named Mac OS X (pronounced “ten”) would become the first modern consumer Mac operating system.


Within minutes of the keynote ending, developers and users alike were in a panicked state. To paraphrase a friend who had been working on porting software to Rhapsody: “I went back to my hotel room and became ill.” Apple had, once again, changed its operating system direction and shattered the hopes of those who found themselves increasingly required to turn to other operating systems for speed and stability.

To fully comprehend the situation, you need to understand the corner that Apple had painted itself into. The Macintosh OS was being rapidly overtaken by competing operating systems and Apple's plans to modernize the existing Mac OS had failed.

  • 1991— Apple introduces System 7.0. System 7.0 provides the first seamless multitasking environment for the Macintosh. At the time, System 7.0 provides better stability and a far better user experience than Windows.

  • 1994/1995— Apple updates to System 7.5. System 7.5 provides new features above the earlier Mac OS release, but is still based on the same system as 7.0 and carries many of the same problems. After five years, the base OS is still very much the same. To address the need for better stability and speed, Apple announces Copland—the next generation operating system that would be numbered Mac OS 8.

  • 1995— Microsoft introduces Windows 95. Windows 95 provides many of the features of Mac OS, as well as pre-emptive multitasking and an early form of memory protection. Windows 95 proves to be more responsive and stable than Mac OS.

  • 1995/1996— Microsoft Windows NT takes hold. Featuring the Windows 95 interface, Microsoft's Windows NT operating system offers vastly increased speed and stability over Windows 95. Capable of running weeks without a crash, Windows NT is heralded as the next big thing.

  • 1996— Apple scraps Copland. A few short weeks after the 1996 developer conference, Apple announces that it is abandoning the Copland project. BeOS and OpenStep become candidates for replacement. In late 1996, Apple acquires NeXT.

  • 1997— Apple introduces System 8.0, and Microsoft introduces Windows 98. Using pieces of the Copland project, Apple builds Mac OS 8. Unfortunately, the basis of the operating system is rapidly approaching ancient in industry terms. To replace the dying Mac OS, Apple introduces Rhapsody at the 1997 Developer conference. Based on OpenStep, Rhapsody is proclaimed to be the future of Mac OS.

Now, a year later, with the failure of Copland firmly ingrained in the public's memory, it appeared that Apple was making the same mistake again by scrapping the Rhapsody project. In reality, the situation was not nearly as dismal as it seemed.


As the dust cleared, it became obvious that the operating system known as Rhapsody was, in fact, the basis for Mac OS X. The difference was a key component known as Carbon. Apple had wisely chosen to delay the new operating system because there weren't any available applications. The reason for the lack of developer support was the new system architecture. Based on a completely object-oriented design, Rhapsody did not make it easy to port existing software to the new platform. Top developers such as Microsoft and Adobe made no promises to support Rhapsody, and, without developer support, the operating system would be stillborn. Carbon was to be the savior that would make the platform viable for both new and existing developers.

Based on the traditional Macintosh toolbox, Carbon allowed existing programs to be easily revised to run under the new OS as well as earlier versions. With Mac OS X, new programmers could use the rapid application design capabilities of the object-oriented foundation, and existing Mac developers could leverage their years of experience and existing code to bring software to the platform quickly. In addition, Apple announced that Mac OS X would even be able to run existing non-Carbonized software using a compatibility layer called Classic. Apple had finally covered all the bases for its new OS; now all we had to do was wait.

1999 saw the first developer release of Mac OS X. It bore little resemblance to the existing desktop Mac operating system. Instead, it seemed almost identical to the original Rhapsody project, which had started shipping under the name Mac OS X Server. Several months later, it was followed up with the second developer release. This time, it was apparent that Apple was on to something. The Macintosh user experience had returned, and the excitement mounted.

This excitement reached fever pitch when, in January of 2000, Apple dropped another bombshell at the MacWorld expo tradeshow. The traditional Mac platinum look and feel was being replaced by a brand-new interface, known as Aqua. The Aqua interface demo featured windows with drop shadows, a dynamically shrinking and expanding program launcher, and some of the most impressive graphics ever seen on a computer monitor. Mac OS X continued to be developed, released (in both developer versions and a public beta), and refined for the next year. Finally, one year after demonstrating Aqua to the world, Steve Jobs announced the shipping date: Saturday, March 24, 2001. After almost five years of delays, false starts, and public unrest, Apple rolled out Mac OS X. The new operating system keeps the promises that Apple made during its introduction: It provides a revolutionary user experience, modern foundation, easy development, and backward compatibility.

The Release

By its very design, Mac OS X accomplishes two seemingly contradictory goals. It creates an extremely easy-to-use system that is crash-resistant and very resilient to user error. First-time users can sit down in front of the system, find the tools they need, and immediately start working. At the same time, advanced users have complete access to an underlying Unix subsystem, advanced networking capabilities, and a wealth of Open Source technologies including the Apache Web server, Perl, Sendmail, and many other powerful applications.

Much of the difficulty in creating a Mac OS X book was deciding which portions of the system should be detailed and which should be left to other, more in-depth resources. For example, for the first time ever, Apple is shipping a full, world-class development environment with every single copy of Mac OS X. Documenting this environment alone could take an entire volume. Additionally, literally thousands of command-line applications make up the BSD subsystem under the Aqua interface. We've worked to create a text that provides focused information on those topics most likely to provide the most benefit to the reader.

This book gives you the knowledge to use Mac OS X to its fullest—both from the perspective of a traditional Mac user and that of a seasoned Unix administrator. The book is arranged so that you can quickly find the topics that interest you without reading through tons of extraneous information. As your familiarity with the operating system grows, you'll find the tips and tricks you need to perform everything from interface customization to shell scripting and creating a fully capable Internet server system.

Mac OS X is likely to grow and update rapidly as Apple continues its efforts to optimize the OS X system performance and user experience. In fact, during the first week of writing this book, Apple released the first Mac OS X software update, which added new features and bug fixes to the operating system. Now, with 10.1 shipping (and filling the gaps in the initial release), the operating system has truly arrived. Rapid updates are likely to continue throughout the early years, building OS X into a truly powerful and unique environment.

As we work to create this resource, we will make every attempt to provide the latest and most accurate Mac OS X information available. By working closely with the Apple Developer Connection, we hope to provide the best possible reference.

Comments, suggestions, and questions, are always welcomed.


John Ray (jray@macosxunleashed.com)

William Ray (wray@macosxunleashed.com)

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