As you may already know, on 24 March 2001, Apple released Mac OS X. There's an in-depth look back on Mac OS X up on V3.co.uk, but we wanted to take a look back at the days before Apple launched OS X, to remember just how badly it was needed and how grateful we should all be.
As great as the release of OS X was, the three years leading up to it were some of the most trying for Apple and the Mac community. If you can understand what those years were like, the enthusiasm of some of those so-called Mac 'zealots' and 'fanboys' make much more sense.
In all honesty, the 'Classic' platform was to all intents and purposes ended in 1997 with the release of MacOS 7.6. The MacOS platform had been neglected in previous years and the OS was woefully behind the times. While the interface and presentation were still miles ahead of anything Microsoft had to offer, under the hood the Mac OS was definitely starting to show its age.
Every OS has errors and vulnerabilities. Even today, researchers can find flaws that can crash a system in a matter of hours. Most modern operating systems, however, have measures in place to limit the scope of crashes. In OS X, an application may crash, but the rest of the system usually stays safe. Anyone who remembers the infamous 'bomb' alert boxes from Mac OS Classic systems can tell you about the limitations in that area.
There were plenty of other performance issues with the platform in those years. The infamous 'extensions' system was a constant source of headaches, and multi-tasking on Classic systems was less than impressive.
Still, Apple did what it could to put a good face on the platform while OS X was being developed. Mac OS 8 and 9 were touted as major updates, but they could do little to address the fundamental problems of the platform.
All the while, the Mac's market share dwindled and serious doubts remained about the long-term future of Apple.
Over on the PC side, many felt that the Mac was a toy for school children that wouldn't even exist in 10 years' time. Saying that you owned a Mac would often be an invitation to derision and taunting.
Mac users felt that they were under siege and in response they developed a tightly-knit community that fiercely protected the Mac. A useful mechinism in times of crisis, this attitude continues to linger and is in large part the source of the infamous 'Mac fanboy' perception.
In March 2001 things changed for the better. Apple released the long-awaited OS X update and, despite the usual learning curve that comes with a major update, it took hold and Mac users were brought into the 21st century.
On its own, OS X was a great leap forward. But given the ordeal of the years leading up to its release, the update was in fact a monumental step in the evolution of the Macintosh and its ecosystem.
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