During the past few weeks, I’ve installed a batch of new programs on my Macintosh computer running the OS X operating system. In this case, however, ‘new’ is a relative term. All share a legacy from NeXT — the technology Apple Computer acquired in 1997 as the foundation of what became OS X. NeXT, founded about a decade earlier by Steve Jobs, was so advanced for its time that the world is still catching up in some ways.” Read the article at SiliconValley.com.
NeXT Still Stands Out in its Mac Incarnation
2003-04-20 macOS 36 Comments
May I ask why was NeXT so advanced for its time?
Because it was basically everything that Mac OS X is, only 10-12 years ago and it could run on 25 mhz computers. It had the equivilant of Quartz in DisplayPostscript. NS was an object-oriented OS that was based on a toolkits/libraries somewhat similar to Java (but 10-12 years ago and running on 25 hmz computers)
…Then why did Steve junk-it-up when he went back to Apple?
NeXTSTEP was the first OS to use a third generation display engine. Everything in the OS was real and manipulatable. This is why you are able to resize the icons in OS X to an infinite number of different sizes and why Apple is able to offer programs like iPhoto or Keynote. iPhoto and Keynote aren’t really graphics capable. They use the system’s inherent ability to manipulate images to do all of the work for them. It is how iPhoto is able to resize jpegs in real time or Keynote is able to add transparancy instantly. Applications like Photoshop use their own graphics engine to edit images. This is why Adobe feels threatened by OS X. They have something that takes tons of money to develop (a graphics engine capable of manipulating images) and now Apple has gone and made one available to any application writer that comes along. Using OS X’s engine would mean sacrificing all crossplatform hopes, but it also cuts out most of the development work.
Then there is the development langauge/toolset (Objective-C/Cocoa). Cocoa allows applications to be written in a fraction of the time using very little code and they inherently have modern features like full threading. This is a huge boon for developers. Even more important is that Cocoa applications come out extremely polished and consistant. This makes Cocoa apps easier to write and nicer to use. Again, many developers don’t want to use Cocoa since it destroys any hopes of crossplatform compatibility.
Display PDF (which is what the Quartz display engine is based upon) is more complete/more featured than DisplayPostscript. However, that isn’t why Apple chose it. Apple chose it because it allowed them to skirt Adobe’s licencing fees. This meant that Apple had to rewrite the display engine for OS X from scratch and couldn’t reuse any of NeXT’s code, but they figured that it would pay off in the long run.
As for speed, OS X isn’t that bad, but there are reasons that OS X is slower than NeXTSTEP. The biggest reason is that it is more modern and supports more stuff. No one would claim that Windows NT/9x runs faster than 3.1. But eventually, the old systems don’t support the modern features that one expects in an OS and bloat is added to give people the features that they demand. I loved the BeOS, but it has become VERY outdated not supporting basic things like hardware OpenGL or USB. As support for more technologies is added systems get weighed down and they become slower. This is why mainstream OSs will generally never be as good as the ALT OSs. The mainstream ones have to support modern stuff and a wide variety of stuff. When an OS is in its own little world, it can be slim. Take Linux for example. I remember when Linux could run well on 386 and 486 machines. Now Linux seems slow on Pentium III machines. This isn’t a dig against Linux. It just shows how Linux went from the fringe to the mainstream. They had to sacrifice some of its advantages to make it “complete”. Now, Linux supports almost all the hardware that is out there and has tons of modern features that let it compete with Windows and OS X. At the same time, it has lost a lot of its slimness and speed.
I have never really seen a mainstream OS that has a true speed advantage over the competition. Each is faster at some things and slower at others. Speed is sacrificed for maturity.
Trying to start a flame I see.
Anyway the hardware wasn’t too bad either. I used the slab. Magnesium case, grayscale monitor, and most important, quiet.
Clean design internaly as well.
“The mainstream ones have to support modern stuff and a wide variety of stuff. When an OS is in its own little world, it can be slim. Take Linux for example. I remember when Linux could run well on 386 and 486 machines. Now Linux seems slow on Pentium III machines. This isn’t a dig against Linux. It just shows how Linux went from the fringe to the mainstream. They had to sacrifice some of its advantages to make it “complete”. Now, Linux supports almost all the hardware that is out there and has tons of modern features that let it compete with Windows and OS X. At the same time, it has lost a lot of its slimness and speed. ”
Two answers to that. Source code and modular design and implimentation.
NeXT was the first OS using a good imaging display, with DisplayPostscript. With it, it was possible to have real wysiwyg (you could send the same postscript code to your screen or to your printer). NeXT was also the first unix-like OS user-friendly, all graphical, with an incredible GUI for the time. Basically, MacOS X is NeXT (or more exactly, OPENSTEP), but with DisplayPDF instead of DisplayPS (as PDF imaging model support things like transparency … but PDF is also less powerfull as PostScript (it’s not programmable)), and a “fresher” look. But everything inside is practically the same (the function’s name in Cocoa still starts with the “NS” prefix 🙂
But what whas exceptional with NeXT, is their programming framework and their programming tools. They were fully object oriented (using Objective-C as language), the framework very well designed, and InterfaceBuilder was the first RAD tool ever … using distributed objects in your code was a matter of 3 lines of code, etc.
Mac OS X now use the same tools and framework (to be exact, Mac OS X use the OpenStep framework, published in 1994, and not the original NeXT framework of 1985-87 … ).
There is also a free OpenStep implementation, GNUstep : http://www.gnustep.org , available on unices and even windows (alpha state). For an introduction to the GNUstep project, history and a small tutorial, look on http://www.roard.com/docs/lmf1.article … see http://www.roard.com/docs for others tutorials and article about GNUstep 🙂
The NeXT hardware is also the current evolution of computers — the Monitor distributed the keyboard and mouse signnal (also audio), just like ADC, and the audio quality is better than many current soundcards.
The NeXTDimension board for the Cube (which I am lucky enough to own) is an amazing piece of hardware as well. Since I’m running a non-turbo board, it’s actually faster than by mainboard, at 32bit (24 color, 8 alpha) it’s a good board too.
Also note that NeXT was the first to incorporate VLSI technology into their boards.
If you ever get the chance, spend some time looking at a system. The cooling mechanism of the Turbo Slabs is especially neat.
BeOS supports both USB and FireWire, FYI.
>May I ask why was NeXT so advanced for its time?
It was a fully OO, microkernel Unix based OS with a display-postcript based GUI running on some seriously kick ass hardware which left even the Amiga in the dust.
This may not sound that intersting these days but in 1986 it was revolutionary, it took years for the rest of the industry to catch up.
At the time the PC was probably a 286 running DOS.
CD-ROM drives are ten a penny now but *nobody* else was using them back then.
>CD-ROM drives are ten a penny now but *nobody* else was using >them back then.
By Jace (IP: 204.186.253.—)
> …Then why did Steve junk-it-up when he went back to
More/better features than BeOS after the Copland crisis.
If anyone’s interested in running NeXTStep $99.00 or OpenStep $299.00 you can still buy them from; http://www.blackholeinc.com . You will need to build a machine from the hardware compatibilty list.
Black Hole Inc. sells HCL compatible Intel PCs on their site that run OpenStep. They also have plenty of the original NeXT “black” hardware, software and accessories.
One might be interested in buying such a system to play around with OpenStep etc., just for kicks because they are very inexpensive, but if you can’t get a decent web browser for OpenStep then it becomes a lot less interesting (for me, anyway). Does such a beast exist? I can’t imagine anyone out there who cares about keeping an OpenStep codebase browser up-to-date and I could not find one the last time I checked.
I use the OmniWeb browser. It looks like OmniWeb is not for sale anymore for *Step. There used to be a free single user license, perhaps copies are out there in the ether? Depending upon what you mean be “decent” it may or may not be for you. Considering that one of my favorite browsers is w3m…
Sure you could buy a system from Black Hole Inc., but if you wanted to put one together you could get an old 2mb ATI video card, old 3Com NIC, old 500Mb hard drive, old 4X CD-ROM and an old 200Mhz Pentium and mobo for about $9.95 to run NeXT very well. Make it easy on yourself and make sure you can boot from the CD-ROM drive because, as I recall, the boot floppies don’t load an IDE CD-ROM driver.
If the cost was not so high I would buy a copy of OpenStep Developer from them, but I think I’ll save my pennies for eCS 1.1.
I just finished reading an excellent history of Jobs’ company, NeXT, by Randall Stross. It’s really quite appalling. The machines that ran NeXT were always behind in speed in comparison with Sun workstations, were for quite some time BLACK AND WHITE when comparable machines were in color, and sold quite poorly. I’m happy Jobs’ hasn’t made the same mistakes thus far at Apple, but I’m not sure I would go far in praising NeXT.
I have a slab with black 17″ colormonitor and a Sony external CD ROM. And, the rare NeXT color printer!! For browsing, i usually use OmniWeb 2.7.
I have tons of NeXT software on CD’s. You used to be able to get the older versions of OmniWeb at the omniGroup site, but i don’t see where you can do that now.
There’s so much cool software. One of the big things you can still do is get all the Lighthouse Design applications and there serial number codes (and it’s legit).
>It was a fully OO, microkernel Unix based OS with a
>display-postcript based GUI
Whose failure only proves that “fully OO”, “microkernel”, and “display-postscript” were never revolutionary from an engineering perspective.
The three combined to this day can’t sell itself.
Anonymous, back then, color monitors had some big drawbacks in certain areas. For one thing, grayscale was and is much easier on the eyes than color. On color monitors, text was blurry. Almost all page layout people used grayscale because text was sharp and east to read. Back then, people using big databases and complex math equations didn’t care about color.
I always enjoy talk and chat about NeXTSTEP (as a couple of my previous posts might show). I really got hooked on nix-like boxen because of NeXTSTEP’s graphical side, also I dug it walked and talked on the LAN like a Mac, PC and Unix server/station.
As soon as I could, I grabed a 3.3 and 3.1 x86 install, I was really happy. The GUI is just what I like, tight, smooth, and err.. oh yeah, the GUI, it’s cool and it’s simplistic.
I also liked it’s *clean* windowing response under load. Even on the suckiest of hw, I never had “artifacts”. Although, I will be the first to admit that the rainbow wheel (beach ball) or the “Wheel of Death” as I new it as, kinda sucked. It’s like the Finder, you know what I mean .. ack force-quit.
Sorry for rambling, I am just happy to know that I have working install cds, and boot floppies (even with IDE cdrom support
Gonna keep these CDs, along with my floppy installs of Coherent, AIX (PS/2) and DesqView/X in my collection.
> the boot floppies don’t load an IDE CD-ROM driver.
The Driver Disk should have an EIDE/ATAPI driver on it, that works for loading the CD-ROMs. It’s on the… 7th page?
I’ve got a Cube (with dimension) running OpenSTEP 4.2 and soon to be running NeXTSTEP 2.0 on a 68030 board running dually, and a Turbo Station soon to be up and running. It’s still quick enough for me to do basic net stuff, which is amazing for a 25/33Mhz computer (of course, the coprocessor, dual VLSI chips, and DSP help a little).
Gil and others, OmniWeb 3 is still available for free download. Try ftp://ftp.omnigroup.com and drill down to the software section. NeXT B&W machines were advanced in that they were the first few systems with 17″ screens!
The reason NeXT failed was that they failed to recognize the difference between the actual value of their software and the monetary value of their software. Their software/hardware was priced very steeply, in the thousands of dollars, which NeXTSTEP and OPENSTEP for software were most definately worth, but no one in their right mind was going to fork out that much for software. If NeXT would have been a little more sensible in their pricing, I’m sure they would have succeeded for longer.
There is a great Australian saying..’he couldn’t run a free brothel”. Pretty much sums up Steve Jobs – great ideas commbined with idiosyncratic and frequently bizarre business decisions. Apple should have totally dominated the PC market but is slowly losing market share to become almost a niche OS. IT seems about the only business where multiple failures are forgiven.
I don’t. I use a Ti PowerBook and Mac OS X for everything, and it works, all of the time. It’s a pleasure to use for development purposes. And it’s got an open-source base, so there will always be new software. NextStep, Apple, Mac, whatever — I’m happy. And I’ll stay happy until somebody shows me something I want to do with a computer that I can do on another computer but not on my PowerBook (if you get my meaning).
NeXT main mistake was the fact that they wanted to be a HW company, when they could have just focused on the SW side of things. They based their HW on 68K chips, just as the 68K line was starting to lose steam.
NeXTStep was an extremelly portable system (it run in 4 platforms: Black 68K, White i386, Sparc, and HP-PA), which actually supported packages that contained binaries for the 4 platforms at once (fat binaries). Basically you only needed a single machine (running any of the 4 architectures) running the NeXTStep developer suite and you could genterate the packages for any of the 3 other platforms. To this day I have yet to see an easier platform for cross development (that is not geared towards embedded markets).
I have used NeXTStep for a few years, and it was so far ahead (at least when it comes to development) that I still miss a lot of the features it had in modern systems! I really ended up liking Obj-C, and I find it hard to code C++ because I am always reverting to ObjC thinking. The RAD tools where also quite good, and even my NS3.3 developer does things that do not seem too dated (it was released almost a decade ago!!!).
NS 3.3 (was the last revision before OpenStep) was beautiful and to this day I still have an HP box running it! It does have some drawbacks, for example it has a brain dead way of dealing with HDD’s (limited scsi tab description files, so you are almost limited to <2GB partitions). It does not support more than 256MB of physical RAM, and sometimes it can become a bit unresponsive (i.e. runaway processes). Its installer is rather picky too (it takes 2 or 3 tries until it isntalls correctly, it really behaves oddly with the HP 9000 scsi subsystem sometimes).
It is still one of the most beautiful interfaces I have worked with. I really like the squarish interface.
granted porting os-x will have severe problems why not update next, and allow software developers to cross-develop cocoa applications from powerpc to x86, sort of like beos in the days of PPC and x86.
allow oem’s to dual boot next with xp.
Are there any images/screenshots where all this software and hardware could be seen ?
UglyKidBill, try http://next.z80.org and http://www120.pair.com/mccarthy/nextstep/intro.htmld/index.html (dated, but a detailed look at NeXTSTEP).
Red Pillar, the sources for NeXTSTEP and OPENSTEP aren’t in the public domain. The software really stands on its own though, what needs to be done is drivers need to be written and updated for modern hardware.
Javi, there wasn’t really anything wrong with NeXT being a hardware company. The software would have been enough to entice users over to the hardware, but they priced it so badly it became almost “Nice, but I couldn’t afford it”-worthy.
WindowMaker for Linux is an exact reproduction of the NeXTStep preferences area.
Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the game Doom originally developed on a NeXT workstation?
Porting OS X wouldn’t be that big a deal and would be easier than updating NeXT. Cocoa parts are inherently crossplatform and would run with 100% source compatibility across different processor architectures. Carbon apps are a bit trickier because most were ported from OS 9, but Carbon apps written without using “legacy” techniques would be fine. The problem is that while a lot of people have updated their 9 apps to carbon, it was poorly done and there are some areas that could cause problems.
First, Apple would have to completely rewrite the display engine for NeXT to release it for x86. This is what they had to do with OS X. Adobe’s licencing is just too expensive. This is why NeXT cost so much.
Second, they would have to add things like drawers that some OS X applications take advantage of, but was never a part of the OPENSTEP programming spec. Not really a big deal.
Finally, they would be left with a non-aqua version of OS X.
It would me so much easier just to port OS X to x86 hardware and there are many credible sources that say that Apple is maintaining x86 builds of OS X internally just in case they need to jump ship from the PPC platform.
The most basic concern is would OEMs pay to dualboot NeXT/OS X and Windows? They have never paid to do this in the past (except for NEC’s 1 month stint with Be). Apple’s licencing when they did allow clones was steeper than a lot of companies wanted to pay. Why would an x86 OEM deal be better? More importatnly, even if they were extremely competitive with their licencing, why would an OEM spend any money on the software at all? Even $20? That’s $20 they would be spending on every computer that very few people would see any benefit from. Plus, dual booting would be confusing to some and actually reduce the value of the computer. Sorry for being pessimistic. I’d like to see it, but I have to live in the real world.
People always see the x86 as a way that Apple could reduce prices, but the PCC is not what makes Macs more expensive. The PPC is much cheaper than the x86. It is the motherboards (among a few other things) that makes Macs so expensive. Apple has to develop their own proprietary boards for a small market segment. That costs a lot of money. Have you ever tried to get an Apple motherboard? They start at $250 for 4 year old ones. You can get the latest Intel motherboard chipset for under $50.
In the end, the x86 isn’t such a boon for OS X/NeXT. I think that “Yellow Box for Windows” would be a better, as well as more realistic, thing to hope for. For those that don’t know what Yellow Box is, it is the term that Apple used to refer to the OPENSTEP specification before they named it Cocoa. Apple originally – in the days of Rhapsody – intended to market Yellow Box for Windows as a way of running Yellow Box applications on Wnidows NT based systems. NeXT did have their applications running fully natively on NT using this method. Rather than port the applications, they ported the frameworks. GNUStep is working on this, but their work is coming slowly. They already have near source compatibility with OS X, but GNUStep doesn’t run well on Windows. It does run well on Linux, though. Applications like GNUMail run on both Linux and OS X with no code modifications – except for the Interface Builder files.
Yes, John Carmack partly developped doom and quake on a NeXT station — he even released his original level editor :
Yup, Carmack was/is a huge fan of the NeXT platform, and Doom was developed on NeXTSTEP.
NeXT ruled. Up until last summer, I still had a NeXT cube which I used. At 25 MHz, it did what it does about the same speed as OS X runs on my 500 MHz iBook. Heh. Plenty of speed-intensive apps were slower, naturally (like SETI@home), but the OS and the built-in apps felt about the same- sometimes faster!- than on my iBook. Oddly enough, I sold the Cube last summer for the same price I bought it 6 years ago- $250.
I always wished I had bought a Turbo Color NeXTstation though… The guy I bought my cube from would’ve sold me one at the same price, but I went with the cube for the cool factor. After using the cube with NeXTSTEP 3.3 for a while, I got a hold of OpenStep 4.2  and ran that on my PC, dumping Linux and Windows- who the hell needs to put up with that crap, not I!
I got OS 4.2 free from Apple! In 1999, Apple was offering Y2k upgrades for their former NeXT customers… Anyone remember http://enterprise.apple.com ? Anywho, in exchange for sending Apple the serial number of your NeXT hardware (or showing a proof of purchase for NeXTSTEP or OpenStep 3.0-4.1 for x86), Apple sent out- free of even shipping- a full installation pack for OpenStep 4.2 if you were running OpenStep 4.0 or 4.1 or alternately, NeXTSTEP 3.3 and patches if you were running NS 3.0-3.2. I had once been running OS 4.0 on the Cube, so it was close enough. Not only did I get OpenStep for the Cube, I got OpenStep 4.2 for x86, the Developer Tool CD (which cost $5k back in the days people charged for devtools), and OpenStep for Windows.
The latter was handy at work- I had my OpenStep machine in my dorm room and at work, I installed OpenStep for Windows. I was then able to run my full OpenStep environment- Workspace.app any all- remotely (yay for -NXHost!), displaying on my Windows machine at work, and run Windows programs alongside, as the DPS server on the Win32 machine ran rootless, naturally. A lot more responsive than X11 has ever been over this network, too.
For a while, I even ran Rhapsody DR2 for x86. That is, Mac OS X Server for the PC. Good stuff. Call me nuts, but I always liked the way an old NeXT box (or PC running NS/OS) felt- Rhapsody included. Somehow, OS X no longer has that odd sleek-but-stuffy feeling of running something NeXT. I have the disc around somewhere, but can’t find the boot floppies. Yar. (Whenever I mention it, I usually get a dozen emails from those wanting an ISO for Rhapsody DR2/x86) Really would confuse people to see something that looked a lot like the Mac OS on a PC.
So how do you respond to a request for a Rhapsody DR2/x86 ISO?