Mac OS X

By: Richard Glaser - Revised: 2006-07-13 devin


Mac OS X is both a radical departure from previous Mac operating systems and a natural evolution from them. This next-generation operating system is a combination of technologies, some new and some standard in the computer industry. It has a solid foundation of a modern core operating system, bringing benefits such as protected memory and preemptive multitasking to Mac computing. Mac OS X sports a new user interface capable of visual effects such as translucence and drop shadows.

According to Apple, "Systems compatible with Mac OS X include the following: iMac, iBook, all Power Macintosh G3 desktops, Power Mac G4, Power Mac G4 Cube and PowerBooks introduced after September 1998. You'll also need to check two things. Also, you may need a memory upgrade —128MB of Memory (RAM) is recommended for Mac OS X.

The final version of Mac OS X was made available Saturday, March 24, 2001.

Where to get it

Educational Purchases
As of March 1st, you can order Mac OS X from the "Apple Store" for $ 69. This purchase must be for a University department or group.

The University of Utah Bookstore, has pre-ordered additional copies of Mac OS X and might have the software in-stock after March 24th, 2001. Contact, the following campus representatives for availability of Mac OS X directly from the bookstore.
  • For more details on educational purchases, see the Apple Store. (link dead)
  • See note below about the Mac OS X discount if you purchased a copy of Mac OS X Public Beta.

Consumer Purchases
For consumer (non-university) purchases , you can order Mac OS X from the "Apple Store" for $ 129.
  • For more details on consumer purchases, see the Apple Store. (link dead)
  • See note below about the Mac OS X discount if you purchased a copy of Mac OS X Public Beta.

Volume Purchase
Apple offers "Educational Volume" discounts for Mac OS X.

Currently, there is not enough interest from campus departments/groups to coordinate a campus Mac OS X volume purchase. Most managers felt that they would want to test Mac OS X, and reconsider mass deployment this summer. If your department/group is interested in a volume purchase, please contact us.
  • For more details about Apple educational volume purchases, click here.

Mac OS X Discount
To thank early adopters, who ordered the Mac OS X Public Beta, for their time and feedback, which was invaluable in the development of the final product, Apple will offer a $30 online, single-use discount on Mac OS X, valid for a limited time.
  • For more details about the Mac OS X Discount, click here.


Failed First Steps
In the early 1990s, Apple set out to develop a next generation operating system to replace its current Mac OS.

First came Copland, the operating system that was supposed to alter both the look and the underpinnings of the Mac OS and was to be release mid-1996. Copland would focus on four areas of achievement:
  1. Performance
  2. Stability
  3. Portability
  4. Ease of use
Copland was also supposed to pave the way for a revolutionary update called Gershwin, which would offer all the functionality & features of a modern operating system. Apple canceled the development of Copland due to development costs and delays in late-1996.

When Steve Jobs created NeXT Computer in 1985 they began designing an operating system called NextStep to run on their own hardware. NeXT eventually abandoned hardware development and modified their OS to run on several other platforms and hardware architectures and called it OpenStep.

When Apple Computer purchased NeXT in 1996 they acquired this operating system. Apple had been developing the Copland operating system to replace their Mac OS but the project was ended due to development problems and costs. Their new project was called Rhapsody and it was going to be a combination of OpenStep with a Macintosh user interface. This developed into the Mac OS X project which was predominantly the same as the Rhapsody development with the addition of code & support to provide a successful environment for legacy Mac OS applications and easier porting.

Road Map
Mac OS X is the first complete overhaul of Apple's operating system since the first one was launched about 17 years ago in 1984. Below is a road map of highlights (or lowlights) in the road to Mac OS X.
  • Early 1984
    Apple releases System 1.0
  • Early 1986
    System 3.0 released.
  • Early 1987
    System 4.0 released.
  • Mid-1989
    System 6.0.2 released.
  • Mid-1986
    Apple releases System 7.0, its first OS with 32-bit addressing and the ability to recognize more than 8MB of memory.
  • Mid-1994
    Apple first discusses its next-generation OS, code-named Copland.
  • Mid-1994
    System 7.5 released.
  • August 1995
    Apple Senior Vice President David Nagel tells Macworld Expo crowd that Copland will be in Mac owners' hands by mid-1996.
  • November 1995
    First test version of Copland released to developers.
  • Late 1996
    Apple cancels Copland and promises new OS strategy to be unveiled in early 1997.
  • December 1996
    Apple buys Next Software.
  • January 1997
    Apple details "Rhapsody," a new next-generation operating system that features a Unix core, preemptive multitasking and protected memory.
  • Mid-1997
    Apple releases Mac OS 8.0 with some of the features that had been seen in demonstrations of Copland.
  • May 1998
    At the Worldwide Developers Conference, interim CEO Steve Jobs announces a revised Mac OS strategy and predicts that Mac OS X will ship in fall 1999.
  • Late 1998
    Mac OS 8.5 released.
  • Early 1999
    Apple releases Mac OS X Server, containing many elements of Rhapsody.
  • January 2000
    Jobs, now CEO, announces Mac OS X will reach its beta stage in spring with a "commercial release" in the summer.
  • May 2000
    Jobs announces at Worldwide Developers Conference that Mac OS X will ship as a public beta in late summer, with final release in January 2001.
  • September 2000
    Apple releases public beta of Mac OS X.
  • January 2001
    Jobs at MacWORLD, that Mac OS X will release March 24.
  • March 2001
    Mac OS X is released March 24.


Supported Computers
You can install this version of Mac OS X on any of the following computers:

Power Mac G4
Power Macintosh G3
PowerBook G4
PowerBook G3 (except the original PowerBook G3)

System Requirements
Your computer must have:

At least 128 MB of RAM
Internal monitor support, or an Apple-supplied IXMicro, ATI, or NVidia video card
At least 1.5 GB of disk space available


Mac OS X Management exists to help others manage Mac OS X in a group setting, usually a student lab, but this could also be staff macs that are maintained in much the same way as a student lab.

While this site may eventually hold all the answers, that is not the intention. This site exists to improve and initiate communication, collaboration, and cooperation amongst the individuals who manage Mac OS X.

Issues & workarounds
  • Local security
  • Software Distribution
  • Hard Disk Maintenance
  • Authentication
If you are developing anything to solve these problems, please let us know so that we can include the most up to date information concerning your product.

Mail List
  • Policy

    This list exists exclusively to help others maintain/administrate Mac OS X labs. Currently, very few exist. The first goal of this list is to change that.

    You must be subscribed to post.

    The following is borrowed from and applies to this list. (link dead)
    Answers to questions are to be mailed back to the *questioner* and are NOT to be sent to the entire list. The person who originally asked the question has the responsibility of summarizing the answers and sending the entire summary back to the list. A summary should include attributions so others can pick up conversations offline if necessary with original posters.

    However, try not to simply dump all the replies into an email message and send that to the list -- that is not really a summary! When a summary is sent back to the list, it should contain the word "SUMMARY" as the first word of the "Subject" line. Please try to briefly restate your original question so that others have some clue as to what it was you asked that generated all those replies!

    Please do not use your mailer's "reply" capability to post your summary, or at least remove the "RE:" from the subject line if you do. 
  • Subscribe/unsubscribe
  • Search (link dead)


The following are notable Mac OS X terms & definitions...
  • Aqua
    The new graphical interface for Mac OS X, with a colorful translucent feel. Aqua introduces an interleaved window layering scheme, where Mac OS 9 is single layered.
  • BSD
    Berkeley Software Distribution.Formerly known as the Berkeley version of UNIX, BSD is now simply called the BSD operating system. The BSD portion of Mac OS X is based on 4.4BSD Lite 2 and FreeBSD, a “flavor” of 4.4BSD.
  • bundle
    A directory in the file system that stores executable code and the software resources related to that code. Applications, plug-ins, and frameworks are types of bundles. Except for frameworks, bundles are file packages, presented by the Finder as a single file.
  • Carbon
    An application environment on Mac OS X that features a set of programming interfaces derived from earlier versions of the Mac OS. The Carbon APIs have been modified to work properly with Mac OS X, especially with the foundation of the operating system, the kernel environment. Carbon applications can run on Mac OS X, Mac OS 9, and all versions of Mac OS 8 later than Mac OS 8.1.
  • Classic
    An application environment on Mac OS X that lets you run non-Carbon legacy Mac OS software. It supports programs built for both Power PC and 68k chip architectures and is fully integrated with the Finder and the other application environments.
  • Darwin
    Another name for the Mac OS X core operating system. The Darwin kernel is equivalent to the Mac OS X kernel plus the BSD libraries and commands essential to the BSD Commands environment. Darwin is Open Source technology.
  • framework
    A type of bundle that packages a dynamic shared library with the resources that the library requires, including header files and reference documentation.
  • FreeBSD
    FreeBSD is an open source, freely distributed Unix-like operating system, much like Linux, its counterpart on the Internet. Mac OS X contains a BSD component.
  • HFS
    Hierarchical File System. The Mac OS Standard file-system format, used to represent a collection of files as a hierarchy of directories (folders), each of which may contain either files or folders themselves. HFS is a two-fork volume format.
  • HFS+
    Hierarchical File System Plus. The Mac OS Extended file system format. This file-system format was introduced as part of Mac OS 8.1, adding support for file names longer than 31 characters, Unicode representation of file and directory names, and efficient operation on very large disks. HFS+ is a multiple-fork volume format.
  • kernel
    The complete Mac OS X core operating-system environment which includes Mach, BSD, the I/O Kit, file systems, and networking components. Also called the kernel environment.
  • Mach
    A Mach microkernel performs only a small set of functions. It can handle interprocess communications; low-level processes such as hardware and memory management; and high-level processes such as file systems and network stacks. Higher level functions are run by servers.
  • makefile
    A specification file used by the program make to build an executable version of an application. A makefile details the files, dependencies, and rules by which the application is built.
  • NFS
    Network File System. An NFS file server allows users on the network to share files on other hosts as if they were on their own local disks.
    The Portable Operating System Interface. An operating-system interface standardization effort supported by ISO/ IEC, IEEE, and The Open Group.
  • OpenGL
    An industry standard for 3D graphics development and display. Apple has optimized an OpenGL environment for Mac OS X.
  • NFS
    Network File System. An NFS file server allows users on the network to share files on other hosts as if they were on their own local disks.
  • preemptive multitasking
    A type of multitasking in which the operating system can interrupt a currently running task in order to run another task, as needed.
  • Quartz
    Is the core portion of the Mac OS X graphics and windowing environment, Quartz is comprised of two core services, Core Graphics Services and Core Graphics Rendering.
  • Sheets
    This is Aqua's new methodology for handling modal and modeless dialogs. Sheets are used in conjunction with the window to which they are attached. Sheets are translucent in appearance and appear to slide out from underneath the window title.
  • SMP
    Symmetric multiprocessing. A feature of an operating system in which two or more processors are managed by one kernel, sharing the same memory, having equal access to I/O devices, and in which any task, including kernel tasks, can run on any processor.
  • UFS
    UNIX file system. An industry standard file-system format used in UNIX-like operating systems such as BSD. UFS in Mac OS X is a derivative of 4.4BSD UFS. Specifically, its disk layout is not compatible with other BSD UFS implementations.


For more information about Mac OS X, I would recommend the following web sites: