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Apple at 30: Part 3 -- Mac OS X arrives, and so does Intel

May 19, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Editor’s note: Apple Computer Inc. celebrated its 30th birthday on April 1. This is Part 3 of a virtual trip down memory lane that looks back at some of Apple’s famous -- and infamous -- moments during the past three decades, including the advent of the Newton, the Clone Wars of the mid-1990s, Copeland, the return of Steve Jobs, the advent of Mac OS X, the iPod and Intel-based hardware.  Parts 1  and 2 are available online already.

Mac OS X -- Rhapsody in Blue and Yellow

In 1997, with Openstep now owned by Apple, development began on the next-generation Mac OS, at the time called Rhapsody. Rhapsody would be made up of two separate operating environments called the yellow box (the new operating system components) and the blue box (which existed as a "Mac compatibility environment"). Rumors abounded about other environments, including a red box that would run Windows software similar to Virtual PC. From the fall of 1997 until Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference (WWDC) in the spring of 1998, everyone was speculating about Rhapsody. At WWDC, Steve Jobs announced that instead of calling the operating system Rhapsody, it would be known as Mac OS X (with the blue box becoming what we now know as the Classic environment). Mac OS 9 would be released to build in some of the foundation technologies needed for Classic to work and to provide needed updates.

When Apple released Mac OS X as a public beta in September 2000, a surprising number of Mac users paid $30 just to be able to run a beta version of the new operating system. Six months later, many purchased the first release of Mac OS X. Although the transition from the classic Mac OS was not an easy one -- in hindsight, many now agree that it wasn’t until Mac OS 10.2 arrived that the operating system seemed to be mature -- the transition did take place.

The iMac arrives

Also in 1998, Apple introduced the iMac. If any single Mac model can be credited with re-invigorating Apple design and aesthetics, it is the iMac.Friendly and easy to set up and use, it arrived with a price tag many families felt was moderately affordable. The iMac pioneered new ground technologically, too. It became the first Mac to offer USB ports, as well as the first to ship without a floppy drive or the traditional Apple Desktop Bus or serial ports. It was a sign that Apple was looking ahead at both the direction of computing and emerging technologies. The choice of USB as a sole means of connecting devices not only made the iMac slightly ahead of the curve, it also helped push adoption of USB throughout the computer industry.



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