The curious case of NextStep on AIX

This is interesting: it turns out there was a NextStep release for IBM AIX workstations. From the initial, archived press release (via Steven Troughton-Smith):

AIX PS/2 NextStep Environment Version 1.1 is a state-of-the-art graphical user interface and programming environment for AIX workstations, designed to be compatible with the same application programming interface (API) as the NextStep product, Software Release 1.0, provided by NeXT, Incorporated.

AIX PS/2 NextStep Environment Version 1.1 provides icons and menus to facilitate access to system utilities and applications. The AIX NextStep Interface Builder is designed to provide a rich set of well-defined objects and graphical cut-and-paste capabilities for designing and implementing application user interfaces. The Objective-C (3) Compiler provides the benefits of object-oriented programming for developers who choose to design additional objects for the application development environment. AIX PS/2 NextStep Environment can help increase the productivity of programmers and end users.

Steven Troughton-Smith, who has a thing for collecting NEXT/early OS X builds and versions, is now looking for this piece of software history, but not a whole lot can be found about this online. I did ran into a thread in from 1995 in which a Robin D. Wilson sheds some more light onto the fate of this product:

And we ran it on an RS/6000 model 540 (with 63MB of RAM no less) — it was pretty fast. The thing that killed it is Steve Jobs wanted IBM pay more money for 2.0. They had only _just_ finished porting 1.0 to AIX (it did run on top of AIX — and there were several hacks made to accomodate it — but it did run fine). When NeXT was shipping 2.0, IBM felt they wouldn’t be able to sell 1.0 (there we some rather dramatic improvements between 1.0 and 2.0). They also didn’t want to spend more money on it (as SJ was demanding for 2.0), and they didn’t feel like porting 2.0 would take any less time (meaning they wouldn’t get done until NeXT released a newer version). All that considered — IBM abandoned NS.

This wasn’t a “bad decision” by SJ (per se), but I can see IBM’s view on
this easier than I can see NeXT’s…

Steven also stumbled upon a very, very long FAQ about NextStep/AIX, which contains tons of information. This will probably be very hard to find, but for the sake of digital archaeology and preservation, we really need to find it somewhere and preserve it. Absolutely fascinating.


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