9 Years of Mac OS X

Today marks the ninth anniversary of the release of Mac OS X. I’ll admit that my knack for early adoption of technology hadn’t bitten me quite yet 9 years ago, so I was still on OS 9 at the time. I actually didn’t jump to OS X until 10.2 Jaguar in 2003, when I bought my first Mac that I could truly call my own when I went to college. 

I remember how much it changed my outlook on how to use a computer. Everything seemed much more simplified and colorful. It was a rich experience that made computing fun. I also remember starting my college experience by ditching Internet Explorer for Mac in favor of the brand new Safari browser from Apple. A browser I still use as my primary window to the Internet every day, whether that is on my Mac or my iPhone.

Two months into my college career, Mac OS X 10.3 Panther was released, bringing with it a lovely feature called Exposé. This little bit of software allowed Mac users to see all open windows at once by tapping the F9 key. F10 would show you all windows within the current application, and F11 would push all windows aside to reveal the desktop. On current Mac keyboards, the F3 key has been assigned the duty of handling Exposé, with control-F3 performing windows within the current app and command-F3 whisking windows aside for desktop viewing.

In April 2005, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger came upon the scene, bringing Dashboard widgets and Spotlight search. Dashboard is a nice way to see little mini-apps that provide a quick burst of specific information such as current weather, stock prices, or what is on your calendar for the day. Spotlight proved to be the shining gem for me, as I much prefer searching for a file rather than digging through Finder. I also quickly learned to use Spotlight as a quick application launcher.

Apple isn’t often credited as having a major OS X release in this fashion, but in January 2006 Apple released Mac OS X 10.4.4, which included support for the latest iMac and the new MacBook Pro, which utilized Intel processors. Even though 10.4.4 is numbered as an incremental release instead of a major release, I think it is fair to say that supporting the same OS on two entirely different architectures is a milestone accomplishment.

October 2007 brought forth Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard after a 6 month delay due to Apple needing to borrow engineers to get the iPhone ready for prime time. 10.5 changed mainly the appearance of OS X. Many of the default apps on the Mac took on the user interface theme, the menubar was given the option of subtle transparency, icons jumped from a size of 128x128 pixels to 512x512 pixels, and the Dock took on a 3D look. Overall, Leopard took steps to bring polish to Mac OS X, but Apple was just getting started with tidiness.

In August 2009 Apple took Leopard and refined it. Mac OS X 10.6 was released, featuring very little in the aspect of marketable features. The big features were tidiness. PowerPC processor support was dropped, and many components of OS X were optimized. This process shaved off 7 GB of the standard install size of OS X. The Finder was rewritten from the ground up from Carbon to Cocoa, and OS X became fully 64-bit. Also, Snow Leopard allows developers to easily optimize their apps for multi-core processors, and to even hand off processing tasks from the central processing unit to the graphical processing unit. The result is a much leaner, faster OS X. I believe Apple took these steps to also put things in place to build upon newer features for future versions.

Out of the 9 years of OS X, I have enjoyed 7 of them as an avid user, usually moving to the latest and greatest version of the OS on the day of release. I can’t wait to see what is next.