• Explore the magic and the mystery!
  • The Tech Night Owl's Home Page
  • Namecheap.com





  • The Leopard Report: Is Apple Ignoring Vintage Mac Users?

    November 14th, 2007

    Yesterday’s commentary, about bringing back Classic Mac OS features, scored more comments than any article I’ve written in recent days. No, it’s not the result of my peerless prose, although I do hope that helped a bit. Instead, I made some argumentst that struck a nerve or two on the part of many long-time and extremely loyal Mac users. There’s a growing feeling that they are being taken for granted as Apple becomes more and more of a mainstream company.

    You see, way back when, Mac users were regarded as the cool eccentrics who had learned to “Think Different” when most of the rest of the personal computing world turned to Microsoft. We all knew we had the best computer on the planet, and pitied the lesser folks who had been taken in by the broken promises of Windows.

    It didn’t matter that a Mac, at least in those days, was more expensive than a Windows PC, or that a lot of the software was unavailable on our computer of choice. It didn’t even concern us when we discovered that when more and more Mac developers went hunting for gold on Windows, for better or worse. Some formerly devoted Mac users went with them, but that was their loss.

    Well, a lot has happened since those heady days. Apple has gone to the brink and returned with the iPod, iPhone, and Intel-based Macs that are really getting substantial market share. The MacBook and MacBook Pro are especially popular with more and more people who might never have embraced the Mac platform even a few years ago. Tech pundits — at least the ones that don’t devote a fair amount of time to trashing Apple — talk of the unexpected revelation that they really like Macs after all, and it’s time to ditch Windows for good.

    You can understand, I trust, that Apple is not in the business of catering strictly to a niche audience when there’s a huge market out there to be conquered. They’ve already conquered the consumer electronics world with the iPod, and the iPhone may soon follow suit, if only in the unique category it created of the feature phone with smartphone capabilities.

    Some suggest Apple’s switch to Intel processors was the move that opened the floodgates. Certainly using much of the same hardware as a PC means that Macs can be priced more affordably, and it’s also true that Intel has the momentum these days when it comes to building the fastest processors on the planet. But even if Apple has to buy chips from AMD, aside from ATI graphics processors of course, there would be few, if any, compatibility issues.

    But it’s also true that a lot of long-time Mac users appear to be upset that Mac OS X doesn’t contain many of the cherished features that they grew to love over the years. When you look over the various comments from some of you responding to my article on lost Classic Mac OS utilities, you’ll see a laundry list of the things that they miss, and the fervent wish that Apple ought to take them seriously and bring them back in a future version of Mac OS X.

    It’s not as if Apple couldn’t restore the Scrapbook or the functional equivalent of Super Boomerang to Mac OS X, not to mention all the other goodies that were released over the years. Indeed, the presence of Default Folder X clearly indicates that a superior Open/Save dialog box enhancer is possible and doable, and I sometimes wonder why Apple hasn’t simply gone to programmer Jon Gotow and invited him to join the company and share his expertise. Of course, they could simply buy the product outright or — in the fashion of the schemes they’ve pulled from time to time — simply invent their own variation. But I’d rather see Jon get some recognition and a little cash out of such a deal.

    You can make a long list of handy utilities that have no functional equivalent under Mac OS X. Even such things as the return of the Finder’s Put Away command would be welcomed, and, again, none of this represents a really insurmountable development obstacle for Apple.

    Believe it or not, though, there is a huge roadblock in the way of some of this happening. One is that there are only so many things Apple can add to an operating system before it comes time to sit down and really make it happen. It may indeed be that millions of Mac users out there simply don’t care about any of these vintage features, or at least not enough to clamor for them.

    That may be the biggest problem of all. You also have to be realistic about your expectations. Apple has been burying the past, gradually, for years. From the first day Mac OS X became the default system on new Macs, Apple has been digging Classic’s grave. Of course, there’s a practical reason for this. It’s costly to maintain compatibility with the past, and it also limits growth to some degree.

    I know that many of you wish Apple hadn’t set such stringent system requirements for Leopard, but many Macs that are four to six years old can run Mac OS 10.5 with at least acceptable performance. Contrast that to Windows Vista, where you may be out of luck with tens of millions of PCs that are but a year old, and even the low-end lines available today may have difficulty coping with the overwrought resource requirements of Vista’s Aero interface.

    One of the most significant issues that prevented Apple from building Copland — its failed industrial-strength operating system project in the 1990s — was the demand to make it compatible with very old Macs and Mac applications. Microsoft has gotten itself into big trouble sticking with lengthy backwards compatibility for both software and hardware accessories, not to mention numerous system configurations, many of which are custom-built by hobbyists. Development projects take much longer, and application and peripheral conflicts are still legion.

    Apple has chosen the lean and mean path, sticking with only a small number of models. Within reason, there is backwards compatibility for several years, but no longer. In another two or three years, the newest Mac OS X release might even ditch the PowerPC, although any upgrade coming before then will likely remain compatible.

    So as much as you might not like it, Apple succeeds by envisioning the future, not living in the past. And that often means some things have to go. At the same time, it wouldn’t hurt to continue to comb through the dusty archives of past Mac OS software to find something old that can emerge as something new all over again.



    Share
    | Print This Article Print This Article

    15 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Is Apple Ignoring Vintage Mac Users?”

    1. Aaron P says:

      Perhaps one day Apple will Rediscover its past and go back to the Future or should I say everything old is new again a.k.a: Retro.

      As a Person who uses both old and new OS’s I find Strengths and weakness in Both perhaps Apple will should do the same!

    2. TomClark says:

      From three successive paragraphs:

      “Many Macs that are four to six years old can run Mac OS 10.5 with at least acceptable performance. Contrast that to Windows Vista, where you may be out of luck with tens of millions of PCs that are but a year old.”

      “One of the most significant issues that prevented Apple from building Copland…was the demand to make it compatible with very old Macs and Mac applications. Microsoft has gotten itself into big trouble sticking with lengthy backwards compatibility for both software and hardware accessories….Apple has chosen the lean and mean path.”

      In other words: Apple’s latest flavor of OS X runs well on older machines, unlike Windows. Windows is hampered by its need to run on older machines, unlike Apple.

      I suggest you think about this some more.

    3. From three successive paragraphs:

      “Many Macs that are four to six years old can run Mac OS 10.5 with at least acceptable performance. Contrast that to Windows Vista, where you may be out of luck with tens of millions of PCs that are but a year old.”

      “One of the most significant issues that prevented Apple from building Copland…was the demand to make it compatible with very old Macs and Mac applications. Microsoft has gotten itself into big trouble sticking with lengthy backwards compatibility for both software and hardware accessories….Apple has chosen the lean and mean path.”

      In other words: Apple’s latest flavor of OS X runs well on older machines, unlike Windows. Windows is hampered by its need to run on older machines, unlike Apple.

      I suggest you think about this some more.

      Did you miss the word “accessories?”

      Peace,
      Gene

    4. gopher says:

      Mac Mini of December 2005 won’t run Leopard unless it was custom upgraded*
      March 2004 iBook G4 800 Mhz won’t run Leopard
      September 2003 eMac of 800 Mhz won’t run Leopard
      August 2003 iMac of 800 Mhz won’t run Leopard
      July 2002 PowerMac G4s had models at 733 that were new.

      The next month each model did see a revision that all of them would run Leopard.

      * The problem with the Mac Mini up till January 2006 Macworld, was that it came with 256 MB of RAM!
      Upgrading the RAM is not something for the faint at heart, and could easily void the warranty if you made a mistake.

    5. TomClark says:

      >Did you miss the word “accessories?”

      I didn’t. Your claim that Apple has “chosen the lean and mean path” doesn’t refer to accessories – I found no mention of Apple hardware accessories policies, only to Apple systems themselves. I therefore naturally assumed from those three paragraphs that the invited comparison was specific to OS/CPU.

      I’m afraid I find your title misleading. Your editorial turns out not to be about vintage Macs at all, but about vintage software used on modern Macs. (I’m afraid you’ve buried the lead as well; in fact this essay supposes you’ve read the previous one.) I’m still wondering a bit whether you’ve thought to distinguish between Apple’s Classic OS software and third-party Classic OS software. Obviously Apple shouldn’t be held responsible for the latter, but there is certainly a niche in both cases for intrepid programmers to exploit – and if they do well enough with it they may well be bought out from Cupertino.

    6. >Did you miss the word “accessories?”

      I didn’t. Your claim that Apple has “chosen the lean and mean path” doesn’t refer to accessories – I found no mention of Apple hardware accessories policies, only to Apple systems themselves. I therefore naturally assumed from those three paragraphs that the invited comparison was specific to OS/CPU.

      I’m afraid I find your title misleading. Your editorial turns out not to be about vintage Macs at all, but about vintage software used on modern Macs. (I’m afraid you’ve buried the lead as well; in fact this essay supposes you’ve read the previous one.) I’m still wondering a bit whether you’ve thought to distinguish between Apple’s Classic OS software and third-party Classic OS software. Obviously Apple shouldn’t be held responsible for the latter, but there is certainly a niche in both cases for intrepid programmers to exploit – and if they do well enough with it they may well be bought out from Cupertino.

      Not to be picky about this, but I said “Vintage Mac Users,” but let’s not quibble about a few words, OK? 🙂

      Peace,
      Gene

    7. TomClark says:

      I assumed that meant users of vintage Macs (mine’s 5 years old), but maybe you meant me (I’m “only” 38, but have owned Macs for nineteen years now).

    8. TomClark says:

      And while we’re on the subject of vintage mac users, here’s a poser for you: what’s the best way to wipe the hard drive of a Quadra 650 (so I can finally chuck it)?

      I’m thinking of getting out a screwdriver and wasting a few drill bits. I’m fresh out of electromagnets.

      I submit that Apple has been ignoring this critical issue. (Then again, I haven’t asked them about it.)

    9. Secure delete. That should make it clean for reuse.

      Peace,
      Gene

    10. TomClark says:

      Er – secure delete how?

    11. Er – secure delete how?

      Considering that the Finder’s feature of that sort isn’t available, you can use your Drive Setup software under Mac OS 7 and 8 to zero the drive. You do that a couple of times, it should be good to go. It’s not as if the hackers will be watching. 🙂

      Peace,
      Gene

    12. Technophile says:

      Mac Mini of December 2005 won’t run Leopard unless it was custom upgraded*
      March 2004 iBook G4 800 Mhz won’t run Leopard
      September 2003 eMac of 800 Mhz won’t run Leopard
      August 2003 iMac of 800 Mhz won’t run Leopard
      July 2002 PowerMac G4s had models at 733 that were new.

      The next month each model did see a revision that all of them would run Leopard.

      * The problem with the Mac Mini up till January 2006 Macworld, was that it came with 256 MB of RAM!
      Upgrading the RAM is not something for the faint at heart, and could easily void the warranty if you made a mistake.

      Mac mini (1.42GHz – 1GB RAM) installed and runs Leopard beautifully. TiBook 1GHz G4 same. AlBook 1.33GHz 12.1″ same. And these are very old computers in regards to technology. Slow G4s ->G4->G5->Core Duo->Core 2 Duo!

      BTW, upgrading the RAM in the mini is very easy. No where near what “everybody” calls difficult, or “voiding warranty”. You can upgrade your RAM yourself without voiding the warranty. If you break something, well, that’s true for ANY computer out there, and it is not easy to break the mini getting in and out of it.

      If your computer is below the 1GHz mark it’s time to spring the $400 and make the jump way over it!

    13. Dana Sutton says:

      Down in the kitchen, for storing recipes and maintaining a list of what’s in the freezer, I have a Mac SE running OS 6 and Word 4. I’m happy as a clam at high tide using it for this limited purpose, but I hardly expect Apple to go on supporting this model. On the other hand, since Apple was selling G-4 laptops until not very long ago (I believe the last model, the PowerBook with a dual-layer drive, was released in mid-October 2005), there may very well be a legitimate beef that Leopard can’t run on these Macs. So the real question is how far back the “horizon” of compatibility ought to extend, or, putting it differently, how long in the future today’s purchaser of a Mac or peecee can reasonably expect his new computer to be supported. I don’t think that in the personal computer industry there is any consensus as to what constitutes a reasonable length of time. Maybe there should be, as on the one hand it would protect consumers, and on the other it would relieve OS design teams of any necessity to provide absurdly extensive backwards compatibility. We could argue this question indefinitely, but, for what it’s worth, my own feeling is that a time-window of three years is about right (since evidently large corporations, school districts, etc., seem generally to assume that a new computer will have about that long a lifetime).

    14. TomClark says:

      I had to throw my SE out years ago. (20MB hard drives kept dying from stiction, and no HD floppies.) Glad there are still a few in service. I used Hypercard – came with the SE – up until last year, when I finally built a Filemaker database that did what I’d been using Hypercard for.

      I recall a few years ago people tended to say that the average business life expectancy of a Mac was three years, and that of a PC was two years. I don’t know whether that’s still true or not. My five-year-old desktop Mac will get Leopard probably soon after 10.5.2 comes out; early reports suggest performance should be similar to Tiger. (I have a 1.6GHz G4 Powerbook at work, not yet two years old, which will probably be my Leopard-testing machine.)

    15. Paul says:

      I wandered into this area wondering what I can do with my Mac Plus (4MB) 20MBHD, but I became entertained at the postings.

      Here is my offering:

      When Jobs, (that’s Steve) returned to Apple as CEO, he cleaned house! He got rid of all the old projects and milestones and focused on Apple’s strengths, and at the time it was primality education. Hence the introduction of the eMac. The shareholders smiled and the loyalists bit their lips and hunkered down behind Jobs as the waters became deep and rough.

      What emerged after the storm was a company that rolled out “beautiful machines”, and they were, and still are. People like me, in their mid 40’s, think the iPod and iPhone are cool, but would rather spend the money on a new roof. We are becoming the minority in this new world. We want Widgets on our yellowing Lisa’s and Time Machine on our Performas.

      Apple has moved on and we don’t like it, but that big hunk of fruit was about to go the way of the Amiga before it was spared.

      I, for one, would not be posting this if it weren’t for my dedication to an absolutely incredible product. It is what should have happened in the industry.

      We can’t have it all, but we have a Unix foundation, and with that a whole new experience in computing has been created. So save your files to ASCII, box up that old Mac and get in on the leading edge of the new standard, so you will be able to tell everyone you had the first release of OS XI – Sylvester.

      So, does anyone know what I should do with my fore mentioned Mac Plus?

    Leave Your Comment