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Talkin' Smack: Dead & Buried

On the 'passing of OS 9' By Dave Nagel
Is Mac OS 9 dead? According to Steve Jobs, it is. At the Worldwide Developers Conference May 6, Jobs showed keynote attendees a Mac OS 9 box inside a coffin and proclaimed "the passing of OS 9." Feeling sad about it? I'm not.

And I'll tell you why: Mac OS 9 has been dead to me for almost a year now, and it's been stinking up the place ever since. For me, the old Mac OS had been declining in health ever since System 7.0, adding lots of bulk but not all that many perks--certainly not in proportion to the performance hits that came with each successive release.


Mac OS X, on the other hand, adds an awful lot of bulk, but it's all muscle. I mean, just think of all you get when you upgrade to Mac OS X: a virtually crash-proof operating system, a few performance improvements (where developers choose to implement them), outstanding memory management, preemptive multitasking and vastly improved support for multiple processors--to the point where a dual 1 GHz machine is virtually the same as a 2 GHz machine. (Not to mention an awfully pretty UI.) We, as Mac users, have never had anything like this before. And no system upgrade since 7 has brought so many new, important features to the Mac desktop.

Now, while our hardware is still at the mercy of a chip maker that clearly cares more about cell phones and gas pumps than desktop computers, at least we have an OS that at every level is superior to anything else on the market. And it is clearly the killer OS that will draw users and developers from Irix and NT.

None of this is to say that the old Mac OS was ever inferior to Windows. Windows has always been garbage in and of itself, let alone compared with the grace and majesty that is, was and always shall be the Mac OS. I've loved the Mac OS from the first day I set eyes on it, and I've never given thought to switching to another operating system.

But Mac OS X is, from its Unix core to its Aqua interface, another operating system--mostly. I mean, any Mac user can get around in OS X with a little bit of effort in the beginning. But OS X operates on an entirely different plane. For me, Mac OS X has accomplished the unthinkable: It's made me hate the old Mac OS. It's gotten to the point where I can't even stand booting up Classic because it seems no better than (gasp!) running Virtual PC.

So am I glad Steve Jobs declared the death of OS 9? Yes, I am. Unfortunately, developers aren't stupid enough to abandon Mac OS 9 altogether. There's money to be made on OS 9 still and years of investment in the code that went into developing today's standard applications.

But it will happen one day. I know a lot of you don't like the idea of abandoning your tried and true OS 9 in favor of an OS that had, at best, a shaky start. But OS X is a completely revamped version of that initial beta software released less than a year ago as Mac OS X 10.0. It's solid, and it's a true joy to work with. What's more, late this summer Apple is scheduled to bring forth "Jaguar," the next-generation of OS X. Aside from all of the benefits currently available in OS X, Jaguar will include drastic changes for the better, including Quartz Extreme, QuickTime 6 and an improved Finder, along with some of those fancy little consumer goodies to tempt Windows users away from the dark side.

Aside from this, when the CEO of Apple declares the old Mac OS dead, it's probably about time to give some serious thought to making the switch yourself. It really is time.


Contact the author: Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications. You can reach him at dnagel@digitalmedianet.com.

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