Mac OS X: 11 Years Ago

Written by: Alex Curtis

Categories: Editorial

I love the Internet as an amazing tool for learning. Dale told us about students podcasting down-under. The Internet community encyclopedia, Wikipedia shows the value of collaborative education. And yes, even YouTube has worked to inform us with viral videos and user comments.

It was on YouTube that I found this 35 minute video. It’s a rare video of a young Steve Jobs giving a demo of the NeXTSTEP operating system.

If you don’t know about the history of NeXT Computer, it’s the computer company founded by Steve Jobs, when he and Apple parted ways in the mid-80s. You can read about the history of NeXT Computer on Wikipedia, it’s an interesting read.

To me, what’s more interesting when you watch the video, is how much of NeXTSTEP is in OS X. I know, I know, Mac OS X is based on NeXTSTEP, but if you consider that this video is from circa 1995, I hate to say it, but I’m really feeling gipped!

Yes, we have a much better GUI with Aqua, I’m sure the underpinnings are improved in many ways, and the amazing iLife line of apps that OS X offers were nowhere to be found (perhaps because NeXTSTEP was legally required not to compete in the graphics design arena?). But when it comes down to it, so much of what existed some 11 years ago works the same way today.

I’m sure I’m going to get in trouble for writing this, but I’ll ask it anyways—Where’s the innovation since NeXTSTEP Apple?

Take a look at the video and tell us all what you think by commenting below. Discussing this kind of stuff is what our Mac community is all about, right?

There are 18 comments on Mac OS X: 11 Years Ago:

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  1. Josh | Oct 20 2006 - 04:21

    It’s hilarious to hear Steve Jobs saying that anything is better than a Mac.

  2. Jacob | Oct 20 2006 - 06:18

    I see Finder, Pages, the Dock, Excel, the Services menu, Network, the Sidebar, Spotlight, Dictionary…. and that’s only in the first 13 minutes!

  3. jrsh92 | Oct 20 2006 - 06:20

    It’s better than old Macs, I guess. It looks like OS X to me.

  4. aplardi | Oct 20 2006 - 08:57

    Fantastic video, anyone who hasn’t seen it before has to check this out.

    Not only does it show the amazing progress of OS X, but also how fast Steve’s hair is falling out. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  5. Cormac | Oct 21 2006 - 01:18

    I think its actually 1991 or 92 that the demo was filmed and not 1995.

    There is a UNIX/Linux window manager called Windowmaker ( that emulates the look and feel of NextStep very accurately, suporting the widget sets and dock and clip concepts. I’ve been using it for years as my preferred work and home environments.. It might even be available to run under X in OSX.

    When we bought our first mac (a mini) for the wife.. I was amazed at how many of the concepts had been imported.. albeit multiple desktops were missing.. but of course thats coming soon!

  6. Steve | Oct 21 2006 - 01:41

    I had only seen pictures of the NEXT OS. This video is amazing. Great find!


  7. NitRam Den Gale | Oct 21 2006 - 03:28

    Seen this one before while browsing YouTube… Some of the features are actually better in the NextOS than in the current OS X version…

  8. Mike | Oct 21 2006 - 05:02

    I don’t feel gipped when watching the video. I just feel (yet again) very grateful for Jobs’ return to Apple (and the acquisition that made it possible).

  9. Robert | Oct 22 2006 - 05:49

    don’t forget the price of this beast though! NeXT computers were EXPENSIVE!

  10. Bruce | Oct 22 2006 - 09:06

    Wow! Great find. I always new that OS X was built from NeXT but I had no idea how much of OS X is just a port of NeXT. Wow!

    It does make me think, “If this is how things have been since 1993, then where is the innovation?” Sure, most have not experienced OS X, so it’s new to them, but man. I guess it just goes to show that the newest and greatest ideas don’t always get out to the public as fast as we’d like.

    Considering how much OS X and NeXT have in common it’s amazing (and a bit concerning) that it has taekn so long for su to get things like multiple desktops. It makes me think that Steve is just holding back features from NeXT so they can incrementally be integrated into OS X. It would be so much better if all the features were included and we could move further ahead of NeXT instead of just pillaging it’s coffin.

  11. Danny Greg | Oct 22 2006 - 11:19

    Its really funny how Jobs actually persuaded me that NextStep was all i needed!! And yes there are so many similarities, Id probably even choose it over XP!!

  12. Jason | Oct 22 2006 - 02:01

    Where can I buy this Next machine? No really, I was amazed at some of the functionality and features it had – that we still don’t. I’d say the gui is much better in os x, though.

  13. Robert | Oct 22 2006 - 03:02

    Jason: You can pick them up on ebay, but they’ve still got a pricetag on them.

  14. Bill Shirley | Oct 22 2006 - 05:06

    (I bought a NeXT Cube in 1990. I started NextStep programming for a living in 1992, and contined as an OpenStep developer until 1997.)

    OS X *IS* NeXTSTEP (or however we should capitalize it).

    One of the main UI changes was the main menu. They kept the Mac take-over-screen-real-estate version, or I should say they changed NS to include it. It was considered necessary to keep the Mac OS 9 die hards from freaking out too much.

    I have always wanted an option of using the NS style menus, which were very versitile (it would take a whole post to explain them). I’ve always wanted there to be a setting to use the old UI, and I will continue to.

    They also removed the dock. Only later to retrieve it, and we all know and use it today.

    They also transitioned from 68000 to i86 (and Sparc) architectures, developing the “fat” architectures, which we call “Universal” today. (And put those modifications back into the GNU C Compiler a decade ago). It took years to engineer those changes. The recent ones were MUCH easier for those previous efforts.

  15. Jim | Oct 23 2006 - 03:11

    i loved next step – it’s so tiger/leopard, or, rather, they are so next

  16. g0rdo | Oct 23 2006 - 06:43

    You’ve been dugg!

  17. Rodolfo Castrezana | Oct 23 2006 - 07:09

    WOW! Great video.

    I’ll ask too: Where’s the innovation since NeXTSTEP, Apple? Time Machine? Spaces? Oh my.

  18. Henrik Tornberg | Jul 12 2008 - 08:12

    I’m writing this almost two years after your post was done. We still have Mac OS X! Does this mean we have no innovation in Apple, anymore.
    Well.. Yesterday the released the iPhone world wide. I guess most of the innovation will come in those types of new products these days, and not in desktop computers..