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The Wacky OS X Comments Report

Every so often, I come across an article that seems sufficiently off the rails that it deserves a comment, or perhaps a chuckle. But I never provide the links, because the writer of such nonsense generally doesn’t deserve the hits, although I won’t assume that’s the reason some of these questionable claims are posted.

Take one blogger who suggests he’s scared of “Apple OS updates,” meaning OS X, because he lives in fear that Apple regularly removes features he depends on from release to release. Since no examples are offered, I’ll try to speculate.

With Lion and Mountain Lion, Apple did kill Rosetta, the PowerPC translation software that allowed you to run older apps that were never made compatible with Intel processors. This sort of thing is not new for Apple. There was a PowerPC transition in the mid-90s that also required emulation software for older apps. We got through both in fairly decent shape.

Otherwise, just what features did Apple remove? Could it be the Save As feature as part of Auto Save in Lion? Well, that lapse of good judgement only made a difference if you used one of Apple’s apps or another program compiled to support Lion’s new APIs. The Duplicate command was an adequate, if clunky, replacement. Apple got the message, and restored the feature in Mountain Lion, though it requires an “Option” in addition to Command-Shift-S to invoke Save As. I think that’s a minor inconvenience in the scheme of things.

True, there are such things as “natural scrolling” and part-time scroll bars that irritate some of you, but both are conveniently reverted to OS X norms with simple System Preferences checkboxes. And you never have to use Launchpad or Mission Control. So where’s the beef?

As most of you who have used Lion and Mountain Lion realize, you don’t need to feel slighted by the iOS-inspired eye candy and renamed apps. Messages operates essentially the same as iChat, with a few look and feel alterations. Certainly Contacts is not such a drastic change from Address Book.

Yes, facts are such irritating things, particularly when they are in conflict with someone’s agenda. That’s too often the case with some of those Apple naysayers. Not that there aren’t lots of legitimate ways to criticize Apple for making some very foolish decisions. I do not, for example, see the wisdom in removing Rosetta from OS X. Surely there was more than sufficient reason to keep it running, particularly since it really wasn’t a resource hog, nor am I aware of OS X being less stable as a result.

But I’m not through with that ill-informed article.

It seems the blogger in question brings up an alleged “year after year” delay in delivering System 6 for Macs way back when. Well, maybe his memory is a tad imperfect, but I have to wonder about his assertion that “year after year, it didn’t ship. It got bigger and more confusing.” He goes on to complain that “Apple told developers not to ship anything until System 6 came out,” which, he asserts, resulted in fewer apps being produced.

There’s more, but I won’t quote the rest. Instead, I’ll put some facts on the table, using the “History of Mac OS” Wikipedia entry to buttress my own fading memory of those heady days. Those of you who have used Macs since the 1980s will probably agree with Wikipedia’s version of history.

Now as you recall, the first Mac shipped with System 1.0 in January, 1984. By April 1987, System 2.0 arrived, although the System file was given a system 4.0 label. Are you with me so far?

In October 1987, Apple jumped to System 5.0. The key new feature was MultiFinder, which introduced cooperative multitasking, the ability to run more than one app at a time. The initial system 6.0 release arrived in April, 1988. But this is only a brief summary, since there were a number of interim releases, coming at a fairly steady pace. After several System 6 updates, System 7.0 arrived on May 13, 1991.

This timetable, which essentially confirms my recollection of the era, doesn’t leave room for a “year after year” delay of System 6. I suppose it’s possible the blogger meant System 7, a huge upgrade to the Mac OS that included the first iteration of support for 32-bit addressing, allowing you to install more RAM in your 32-bit clean computer, and the first refinement or smoothing of the Mac user interface.

Now maybe I’m losing something in the translation. Maybe the blogger wasn’t talking about System 6 at all, but about Copland, Apple’s failed effort, in the 1990s, to build an industrial grade operating system. From the ashes of Copland, Apple brought a few of the interface elements and other refinements to System 8. Apple also bought NeXT, Inc. from Steve Jobs, and the rest is history.

But it’s not the history presented by a certain blogger who not only seems clueless about the changes in OS 10.7 and 10.8, but about the fundamentals of the Mac OS over the years. I also suppose it’s always possible the blogger will, upon realizing his mistakes, just edit or alter the incorrect remarks. We’ll see.

Unfortunately, articles of that sort sometimes receive lots of traffic, and are quoted widely without critical comment. Before long, too many readers get a wrong-headed view of what’s really going on. As I said, constructive criticism about Apple is a good thing, but making up stories doesn’t help anyone, except those looking for bigger hit counts.