forward thinking about the UI

Liam Proven lproven at
Tue Nov 24 12:21:42 GMT 2009

On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 11:14 AM, Michael Haney <thezorch at> wrote:
> On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 5:57 AM, Liam Proven <lproven at> wrote:
>> On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 2:10 AM, Michael Haney <thezorch at> wrote:
>>> On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 7:46 PM, David Gerard <dgerard at> wrote:
>>>> And Windows 95 is a Bizarro-ray clone of NeXTstep. (Which also became,
>>>> of course, that well-known Unix interface Mac OS X.)

> I was aware that Mac OS X was BSD.
>>> The same goes for BeOS, which was another OS
>>> that Apple considered but ultimately decided against.  Some ideas from
>>> BeOS made it into Mac OS X also.
>> Such as? Apple did not buy Be and thus had no rights to any of its
>> ideas. As a BeOS and Mac OS X user, I am not aware of any particular
>> influence of BeOS on Mac OS X.
> I should have said some Mac OS X technologies were "inspired" by BeOS.

Again, such as?

>  There was a book that detailed a lot of this but I can't remember the
> title.  It gave the history the Macintosh computers from their first
> incarnation to the first Intel-based Mac OS X systems.  Its where I
> learned Steve Jobs had a hand in developing NeXTstep before returning
> to Apple.  BeOS was considered before NeXTstep was if I remember
> correctly.

It doesn't sound like your book was very accurate, I'm afraid. Or
perhaps you just misremember it! :¬)

Apple's then CEO Gil Amelio was considering buying former Apple VP
Jean-Louis Gassée's company Be, for BeOS, *or* Apple co-founder Steve
Jobs' company NeXT Computer, for OpenStep, the successor to NeXTstep.

They went with NeXT. BeOS was excellent - small, fast, efficient,
modern, streamlined, and ran on Apple kit. The company was small, with
some excellent engineers. The snag is, Gassé wanted a lot more for it
than Apple was offering.

NeXT was a lot anyway - it was doing better and had some big names,
including several people who worked on the Mac in the early days, and,
of course, Jobs. Its OS was also beautiful, sophisticated & very
hi-tech. It offered 2 major advantages: 1, getting Steve Jobs back,
and 2, one of the great strengths of NeXTstep was its world-class
industry-leading development tools. Be had nothing to rival them.

Amelio went with NeXT. If the Mac had to move to a new OS, then all
Mac developers would have to learn to code for the new OS. Mac devs
were pretty wedded to their platform, as were Mac users. And
transitioning to a whole new OS, Apple /really/ needed to get the devs
on board.

Classic MacOS's dev tools were nothing special and quite hard work.
Getting 'em to move to NeXTstep would be easier as NeXT's dev tools
were almost universally recognised as among the best in the industry.

So that's what Amelio did, and history has proved him right.

Technologically: Mac OS X is not really BSD underneath, no.Many
Free-S/W types have seized on this because it's a simplification they
understand and like but it is inaccurate.

NeXTstep was built on 3 main technologies:
 - the Mach microkernel from Carnegie-Mellon University
 - part of BSD UNIX - the 4.4-Lite edition released from the
University of California at Berkeley - but *not* the kernel
 - the display subsystem, written entirely from scratch by NeXT, based
around Display PostScript based on Adobe's PostScript page description

Apple took this and updated it.

- Mach 2 was replaced with Mach 3
- the BSD 4.4 userland was updated with a lot of code from FreeBSD
- Display PostScript was replaced with Quartz, based instead around
the PDF page description language - which is in essence a simpler,
cleaner, more open version of PostScript aimed at screen rendering

But it is a mistake to say that Mac OS X is BSD underneath, even
though a lot of ignorant Linuxites say it because they don't know
their history, don't know anything about Mach and don't know what a
userland is.

Many supercars have engines in licensed or bought from Ford or Audi or
some other consumer car maker; it does not make a €200,000 Kônigsegg a

The Mac OS X kernel is called xnu. It is based on the Mach 3.0
microkernel from CMU with a big in-kernel Unix-compatibility module
which is derived from FreeBSD. Above this is a userland, mainly
derived from FreeBSD as well.

This does not mean that Mac OS X is a form of BSD; it is not. It uses
a different kernel, a different config file system and a different
display layer.

But Mac OS X is the latest version of OpenStep which was the latest
version of NeXTstep. Everything in Mac OS X is based on NeXT
technologies, pretty much - it inherits very little from classic
MacOS. A descendant of the HFS+ filesystem and a completely rewritten
Quicktime are about the only significant survivors. The desktop &
"Finder" was rewritten to look more like a classic Mac, with desktop
icons, nested folders, aliases, a global menu bar, etc. - but it's
NeXT's Workspace Manager with a facelift, it shares no code with the
classic MacOS Finder.

Most of Apple's other technological frameworks - OpenTransport,
OpenDoc, Input Sprockets, QuickDraw, CyberDog, etc. - are all gone.
Even Apple network protocols like AppleTalk are deprecated and
disappearing now.

BeOS, on the other hand, had no input into OS X at all that I am aware
of. When Apple did not buy Be, that sealed the smaller company's doom.
Damned shame, but these things happen.

A final version of BeOS 6 did hit the market as Zeta, which changed
hands a couple of times then disappeared. A ground-up open-source
reimplementation called Haiku is getting some interest now as it
approaches version 1.0.

Most of the Be engineers ended up at Palm, whose S/W division was spun
off as PalmSource and later bought by Access Linux Solutions in China.
PalmSource used them and the tech to produce PalmOS 6.0, a very clever
new product - looked like classic PalmOS, ran PalmOS apps, but unlike
PalmOS, was fully multitasking, with rich colour and multimedia
support and was Internet-aware and -capable. Alas, no H/W vendors
licensed it and it died.

ALP threw away the Be code, rewrote another new PalmOS, based around
Linux instead, but although very clever - it looked like PalmOS & ran
its apps - it was too little too late. Palm kept flogging the
original, 68000-native, non-multitasking PalmOS 5 'til its all-new,
radically-different, non-backwardly-compatible, Internet-centric
Linux-based WebOS was ready for the new Prê phones.

The Prê is the iPhone's only really serious rival at the moment - both
are significantly ahead of Google's Android - so Palm may yet win its

Be, BeOS and its technologies and code are dead and gone, though.
Haiku - which shares no code, but looks & works similarly - are the
only descendants.

Liam Proven • Profile:
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