But I do believe that the old Mac makes for a timely reminder that the digital age hasn’t always felt so frantic, or urgent, or overwhelming. And maybe, even if an old Mac interface isn’t the solution, we can view it as a subtle north star for its sensibilities, and how much it was able to accomplish with so little.
This story is far too light on details and quite fluffy, and the final sentence quoted above is far too simplistic – “how much it was able to accomplish” was, in fact, quite little compared to today’s machines – but it’s interesting to see people discovering the classic Macintosh operating system for the first time, and recognizing its many fun little affordances that made using it so pleasant.
Personally, I consider Mac OS 9 to have one of the most pleasant and usable graphical user interfaces ever designed. Sure, the underlying operating system was a grossly outdated technical mess by that point, but the many subtle animations, the spatial Finder, the consistent and elegantly understated Platinum looks made the UI a pleasure to use, to this very day. And considering I never used the classic Mac OS back when it was current, this isn’t a case of rose-tinted nostalgia; I didn’t get to try out OS 9 until 2005 or so.
I wish Apple’s current software designers were forced to use the classic Platinum UI for a month or two, just to experience what it was like. Maybe they’d step up their game, because as it stands today, macOS’ UI is mere shadow of OS 9.
The new one is OK, but so much was lost in the transition. But then again, much was lost through 7â€“9, as System 6 was the pinnacle of the Mac OS. It was clean as could be, fast as lightning, and small. I’d love to see a System 6-level Finder for the current Mac, if for no other reason than to have a powerful system when I needed it and a sane interface to use for 99% of my work (though Terminal has to stick around…oh, yes).
What would really be great, however, is if the NeXT/OpenStep could be brought back instead. Making a Mac-like interface made sense back in the takeover years; ditching a far-superior interface did not. And you can see the mess we are left with today.