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Tracking a Mountain Lion - The Evolution of Mac OS X (Part 1)

January 14th, 2013

Long before they became the darlings of the consumer world, Apple computers have enjoyed exclusive usage here at Fine Print. With the release of the latest Mac OS (10.8 codenamed Mountain Lion) we look back at the evolution of what we consider to be the world's best OS in this two-part series.

Version 1.0 (January 1984)

Running on 128K of RAM and a whopping 400K hard drive (less than half a floppy disc) System 1.0 may appear a humble offering in retrospect. Laughable hardware capacity notwithstanding, this was in fact a revolution in software, representing the first commercially successful OS that featured a graphical user interface and a mouse.

Before this bold move on Apple's part, most personal computers offered little more than a text console for programming or playing very simple games. Apple effectively set the stage for a whole new era of applications, ones that didnt look like this:

Within this context, Apple's first television advertisement makes a lot more sense. Anyone alive at the time remembers it's iconic take on George Orwells' dystopian novel 1984, a brilliant marketing move since that was the year it was released. Notice the text consoles all over the place, oppressing users with their boring interfaces.

Steve Jobs, Apple's Founder and CEO hit the ground running once the first Macs had been rolled out, wasting no time and sparing no expense to ensuresufficient marketing and press coverage of his products. It was during these months that the world was treated to his own debut as a master salesman.

Version 2.0 (November 1985)

Once all the dust of 1.0's release had settled, Apple deployed it's next iteration one year later. It featured many improvements to the Finder, support for Appletalk, which allowed printer/network connectivity, along with the Hierarchical File System (HFS) that incorporated real folders and is used to this day.

2.0 also featured improvements on 1.0's most successful applications, such as MacPaint or MacWrite

System 3.0 (January 1986)

In 1986 Apple returned with 3.0, which also introduced the Mac Plus, which came with 1MB of RAM, something unheard of at the time. It was also the first Mac OS to support bootable drives up 800K in size and featured revolutionary SCSI drives. Italso brought us more fine grained control of system preferences with its Control Panel. 3.0 also marks the first release without Steve Jobs, who had been fired the preious year.

System 4.0 (March 1987)

This update did not include very much, mostly bug fixes and the introduction of AppleShare, the technology that would facilitate file sharing and printing across a network. Apple was hard at work behind the scenes on it's next major update.

System 5.0 (October 1987)

5.0 was the first release to run several programs simultaneously with the integrated MultiFinder. Previously you could only run one application at a time; something unfathomable by today's standards, which is why this was such an important release.

System 6.0 (April 1988)

Aside from the obvious addition of color to the OS (finally!) System 6.0 brought more support for external devices, up to 8MB of RAM and new software called MacroMaker that allowed user to record input from their mouse and keyboard.

System 7.0 (May 1991)

After three years without a major update Apple dropped System 7, which featured a slew of updates, new software and capabilitie, including WordSCript, Font support . Applescript and Quicktime. This was Fine Print's first OS and we remember it fondly!

Mac OS 8.0 (February 1997)

The new system incorporated Apple's "Platinum interface" moving from 2D OS into a more 3D feel. It featured a multi-threaded Finder, Desktop pictures, new contextual menus. This release also symbolized a rebranding of the operating system as "Mac OS", a name which has stuck ever since.

Mac OS 9 (October1999)

Apple picked up serious momentum with this release, introducing major system upgrades, increased speed/performance and Sherlock 2 (precursor to Spotlight). You can actually play with this OS for nostalgia's sake.

System 9 also marked the return of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, and saw unprecedented success and adoption at advertising agencies and publishing firms alike. Things looked like they couldn't get much better for Apple, but the world had no idea what was coming next. Steve, in pure Jobsian fashion had his engineers working on a brand new OS in secret - it would change the computing world once again, leaving the competition light years behind.


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