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MacOS X 20th Anniversary – A Steve Jobs Legacy of Cats

On March 24th, 2001 Apple released the first official public version of its new bleeding edge operating system code-named Cheetah, and today we celebrate the MacOS X 20th Anniversary! 

macOS X 20th Anniversary


macOS X 20th Anniversary – How It Started

It all began in 1997 with the search for the Holy Grail! Unfortunately, this didn’t include a fight with the Black Night, but a Titan somehow was included. Apple was in search of something to replace its haggard old Classic Mac OS, badly hobbled, strung out, and aged. Internally they started a project called Rhapsody and made it a hodgepodge of technologies include WindowsNT API’s. Ultimately it was buried never to see the light of day and Apple hung their head in defeat, then went shopping!

And wouldn’t you know who had just developed an amazing next-generation operating system for their cool and highly overpriced computers? NeXT! Helmed by Steve Jobs, the exiled king himself! Recognizing the opportunity, Apple purchased the company lock stock & barrel and started its meteoric rise to the 2 TRILLION DOLLAR company it is now. 

With Steve Jobs redirecting energies and influencing minds, they developed an Apple-fied version of the Unix-based NeXT OS that attempted to make it easier for Classic apps to run inside of it. Apple apparently thought it was so amazing they named the public beta after Roman Goddess Hera. The most striking thing about the first macOS X was the Aqua interface; translucency, ribbing, candy-like buttons, and 3D effects were a feast for the eyes.

The first public release didn’t live up to its name of Cheetah though and unfortunately loaded like a drunk hippo. It was also missing LOTS of features Classic OS fans were used to. 

macOS X 20th Anniversary

A Look Back On The Evolution Of X

Each new version of the OS was denoted with a decimal point and soon was known to the public by its internal code-name. Some releases were major feature introductions, some were under the hood enhancements, some were, well, just broken. 

OS X 10.0 – Cheetah

March 2001 saw the first release of macOS X, and introduced the tasty-looking Aqua interface to the world. An entirely new way of using a Mac, it had a bit of a learning curve. This curve though would become the basis of macOS X for the next 20 years, and now, beyond. 

OS X 10.1 – Puma

Soon after in September, Apple released a refined version that was much more responsive. Puma was also the first MacOS to run Microsoft Office, a deal introduced by the devil himself

OS X 10.2 – Jaguar

The first time the code name was released publicly, Jaguar pounced in 2002. Refining the Aqua interface to be easier on the eyes, this was the first version of Mac OS X to be adopted by hardcore Classic users. 

OS X 10.3 – Panther

In 2003, Apple introduced cloud storage with iDisk and the familiar sidebar to the Finder windows. Thankfully, additional icon and list views were added on top of the NeXT style column only view. 

OS X 10.4 – Tiger

April 2005 allowed me to joke about putting a Tiger in my tank! The introduction of the system-wide Spotlight search engine and Automator scrips tool were big features. The new widget-pane called Dashboard was introduced as well. 

OS X 10.5 – Leopard

2007 saw the introduction of 300 new features and a simplified departure from the Aqua interface… a good one. We also saw the unveiling of one of the single most important features of all time, Time Machine! Spaces and Quickview made their debut as well.

OS X 10.6 – Snow Leopard

The “variant” of Leopard was a much-needed “bug fix” release. Increasing speed, slimming down, and fixing bugs, this version of macOS introduced support for 64-bit processors. 2009 also saw the introduction of the secure and vetted Mac App Store. 

OS X 10.7 – Lion 

Where Snow Leopard brought stability, the 2011 release of Lion seemed to break everything. It was also the first macOS not to be released on physical media, you had to download it through the Mac App Store. Launchpad, Airdrop, natural scrolling, and fullscreen apps made their appearance in Lion. 

OS X 10.8 – Mountain Lion

2012 saw another refinement release of macOS. iCloud was integrated as well as the alignment of the iOS versions of Calendar, Contacts, and Address Book. 

OS X 10.9 – Mavericks

2013 saw the first FREE release of macOS and the end of the Big Cat era. The new California landmark named OS would see the end of Skewmorphism! THANK GOD!

OS X 10.10 – Yosemite

2014 was the second in the new yearly release model and introduced iCloud Drive the wonderful continually Handoff feature and allowed Airdrop to iOS devices. 

OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Faster OS releases meant smaller feature changes. 2015 introduced pinned sites in Safari, Split View, and expanded Spotlight. 

macOS 10.12 – Sierra

An official throwback name change was shown in 2016! Adopting the nomenclature of the Classic macOS, we finally got Siri on the Mac as well as Apple Pay. 

macOS 10.13 – High Sierra

Another under the hood release, 2017’s High Sierra introduced a new file system for the underlying hard disk and introduced a new graphics subsystem called Metal. 

macOS 10.14 – Mojave

In 2018, macOS got dark with the new Dark Mode, and using the new Catalyst framework saw iOS ports of News, tocks, Home, and Voice Memos. The interface was refined to look better on retina displays as well. 

macOS 10.15 – Catalina

2019 was a massive change for macOS as Catalina ONLY supported 64-bit apps. Lots of apps were lost to this change as developers floundered trying to deliver. This was the time iTunes finally died and like a Pheonix from the flames, Music was born – well, ported from iOS. 

Here is a great look at the visual evolution of the User Interface over the years! This shows the beautiful and gradual evolution of the UI to a more touchable one, unlike the abrupt and customer-pissing-off approach of Microsoft. I’m sure a lot of folks would like to forget all about Windows 8

The Past Forged The Future

20 human years is like 500 computer years, and yet the basic components of the MacOS X User Interface persist. Through consistent refinement and feature introductions, macOS has remained the easiest yet most robust operating system on the market. As of June 2020, macOS X is officially dead or at least retired after 20 years of incredible service. 

Apple introduced macOS 11, or macOS Big Sur a year ago. The underlying architecture changed and the largest UI changes were made since the introduction of OS X 20 years ago. Despite these changes, the underpinnings of OS X are still there and most likely will remain for the foreseeable future. 

How are you celebrating the macOS X 20th Anniversary? Let us know!

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Ryszard (Rick) Gold, From Calgary, Alberta, Canada has over 20 years of experience working with Apple products in a technical capacity. Passionate about technology in general, his natural troubleshooting abilities, curiosity and appreciation of good design lead him into working exclusively with Apple Computer products.
Ryszard Gold
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