The 68k->PPC transition and Snow Leopard: comparing apples to oranges

In “Snow Leopard: Party like it’s 1998” there’s an attempt to quell the outcry of Mac users for Apple dropping PowerPC support in Snow Leopard by recalling the late Nineties transition from the Motorola 68×00 to the PPC machines.

It is a good and praiseworthy idea but unfortunately, in the description there are a couple of major inaccuracies which undermine the effort.

In the post it is stated that

On October 17, 1998 Apple released Mac OS 8.5, the first operating system that ran solely on Macintoshes with PowerPC processors. As far as system software upgrades go, this was the end of the line for any Mac built before the Power Macintosh 6100, introduced in March 1994. Earlier Macs ran on some variation of 680×0 processors and were supported mostly via emulation in a PowerPC environment. Emulation works, but it also slows things down. By 1998, Apple decided it just couldn’t support 680X0 emulation for a number of reasons, but chiefly among them was speed.

The Mac OS 8.5 was surely the end of Mac based on the 68k family of processors, but Apple kept on making and selling machines based on this hardware platform long after the release of the Power Mac 6100 in March 1994.

PM 6100 with monitorMacs such as the PowerBook 280 and the Quadra/LC 630 were launched during 1994 and even the following year, in the April and August of 1995 Cupertino introduced non-PowerPC models such as The Performa 580 and the PowerBook 190cs.

And those Macs were not “supported mostly via emulation in a PowerPC environment”. It was the way around: Macintoshes based on the PowerPC chips had to use emulation to be compatible with the (operating) System (which was later called Mac OS), which was still full of 68×000 code.

During the late Nineties Apple kept on slowly cleaning up the Mac OS code by “a PowerPC native, multi-threaded Finder” (does this ring a bell?) in Mac OS 8.0 and transitioning away from the old CISC CPUs by first limiting support to 68040 Macs with release 8.1.

Image taken from

Tuesday 16 June 2009, 12:29 pm
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From 25 to 75 millions users

OS X 25 to 75 millions At the WWDC 2009 Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Product Marketing, announced thatthe Macintosh has experienced an explosive growth and even more did the number of OS X users.

While in 2007 the number of active users of Apple’s operating system was at 25 millions in 2009 it had suddenly risen to 75 million. How could this be?

The secret to Apple’s tripling its active user base in the past two years is the runaway success of the iPhone platform. During the keynote presentation Schiller produced a chart showing the number of actual active OS X users, not just of Mac OS X users. It’s very important to strike the difference between those two terms: OS X and Mac OS X.

The growth isn’t just about Macs but it ows a lot to the many iPhones and iPod touchs sold so far, to be exact around 40 millions of the devices. Both have a version of the former Mac OS X and of its technologies and have thus incremented the market share of Apple’s operating system and key programs such as the web browser Safari.

Friday 12 June 2009, 4:36 pm
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Apple’s subtle path to thinnovation

Filed under: Hardware,Software

On the 10th of May 1999, during the WorldWide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), Apple introduced the PowerBook G3 Lombard and Mac OS 8.6.

Storie di Apple - MacDay 2009 - Il Lombard
Although both have been overshadowed by other products (the Pismo and Mac OS 9), they nonetheless represent important steps in Apple’s hardware and software evolution.

One could argue that the search for “thinnovation” which brought us the MacBook Air in 2008 started with the Lombard, which is more powerful than the 1998 Wallstreet and yet 20% thinner. Mac OS 8.6 offered a similar breakthrough in extending the battery life of old and new portables, up to an incredible 5 hours and -using two batteries- even 10 hours of mobile productivity.

sda10052009macdayeThis is why at the MacDay, the annual gathering of italian Mac users near Bologna, on the 10th of May 2009 Storie di Apple celebrated the two products with a short presentation called “La sottile innovazione di Apple”.
Since I believe the slideshow sums up nicely the key points of the importance of the PowerBook G3 Lombard and of Mac OS 8.6 (which even had the beginnings of multithreading and protected memory), I created a translated version of the slideshow.

You can find it in the Stories of Apple Documents Archive from where you can freely view and download it in PDF format.
It’s a small experiment which -if appreciated- can and will be repeated in sharing information about the history of Apple, so please send feedback and comments.

Wednesday 10 June 2009, 8:43 am

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The pace of Mac OS X releases

Filed under: Software

Avie Tevanian at WWDC 99On the 19th of May 2004 Avie Tevanian, then Apple Chief Software Technology Officer told a technology conference that Apple would slow the pace of its operating system releases.

The next one, Mac OS X 10.4, codename Tiger, was not to follow the “one major release per year” rule kept in the past years and would be closer -in development and release- to a 20 month cycle.

Let’s take a look at the schedule Apple actually kept since march of 2001, when (not counting the public beta) the first version of Mac OS X was released to the public:

  • 10.0 CHEETAH – Date of release: 24 March 2001
  • 10.1 PUMA – Date of release: 25 September 2001
  • 10.2 JAGUAR – Date of release: 23 August 2002
  • 10.3 PANTHER – Date of release: 24 October 2003
  • 10.4 TIGER – Date of release: 29 April 2005
  • 10.5 LEOPARD – Date of release: 26 October 2007

The dates show us that it took only 6 months to go from 10.0 to 10.1 and that 10.2 was released the following year: this reinforces the common opinion of “Puma” as a quick and much-needed fix for a still incomplete and immature operating system. So we have 11 months between “Puma and “Jaguar” and 14 months until “Panther”.

Mac OS X 10.4, “Tiger”, was released after 18 months, more or less as stated by Tevanian. On the other hand it took 30 months for “Leopard” to come out and the wait for 10.6, codenamed “Snow Leopard”, could be in the same ballpark.
Apple has stated it will show and give an almost complete “developer release” of 10.6 at the 2009 WWDC which means the sixth version of Mac OS X won’t come out before 24 monthts: maybe even a bit longer if we take into account Apple’s fondness of releasing during Autumn or Spring.

The picture of Avie Tevanian (from the 1999 WWDC) is “courtesy of Apple”.

Tuesday 19 May 2009, 8:37 pm
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A Darwinian opening

Open AppleOn the 16th of March 1999 Apple announced Darwin, the open source core of Mac OS X.

While the product was actually released more than an year after, on the 5th of April 2000, the move signalled a big change for Apple, which openly embraced the open source movement after the false start of MkLinux a few years before.

Open AppleThe announcement of Darwin (and of an open source version of QuickTime Streaming Server) was closely related to the the first version of Apple’s NeXT generation operating system, Mac OS X Server, announced in January at Macworld.

So in March, just a few days apart, Apple shipped both its new server operating system and at the same time released freely many of its core foundations.

Darwin’s birth and Apple’s push into the open and free world were initially met with mixed reaction, with many people not knowing whether or not to trust Apple’s motives and the Apple Public Source License (APSL) chosen for the source code. OSI logoThe license was modified at least three times and only in 2003, after being already accepted by the Open Source Initiative as an “open source license” it also gained the “free software license” status by the more stern and orthodox Free Software Foundation.

The Cupertino company eventually began to get acceptance of its open efforts, adding through the years many projects such as Bonjour/Zeroconf, WebKit and Calendar Server to mainstays Darwin and Darwin Streaming Server enduring to this day a fruitful although occasionally rocky relationship with the open source community.

Monday 16 March 2009, 11:13 pm
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