The Long View
8 min read
fairly easy
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   In 1988, Apple released the first version of their Unix-based operating system. It was a complete multi-user Unix kernel with preemptive multitasking and memory protection. It could run regular Unix programs and X-windows1 programs like other Unix boxes, but it could also run Macintosh programs. Practically all existing Macintosh programs could run in a kind of classic environment. But you could write a special kind of program that lived in the Unix environment, had Unix virtual memory and memory protection, and used the Macintosh toolbox to create its user interface. It was pretty easy for a programmer to recompile a regular Macintosh program to take advantage of this new environment. Sounds a little like OS X? Yes, Apple had all that available as a product, from February 1988 (version 1) through 1995 (version 3). During the same time period there was a lot happening at Apple and elsewhere. NeXT introduced their unix-based operating system in September, 1990. The famous meeting in which pink and blue cards were used to plan the future of the Macintosh operating system were held in 1988. Apple gave up developing their own home-grown multitasking, memory protected operating system (that was to be called OS 8), in 1996, and purchased NeXT, to acquire their working Unix-based operating system, in February, 1997. What gives? Why didn't Apple, some time between 1989 and 1995, realize that they already had the operating system they needed for the future, and it was A/UX?Â

Why A/UX?

   If Apple didn't develop A/UX to become their modern full-featured but backward compatible operating system of the future, why did they make it at all? At the time A/UX was released, most people thought they knew what it was for. Apple representatives at Mac user groups were quick to explain that the purpose of A/UX was to gain access to the US Government market. The US government is one of the largest computer purchasers in the world, maybe the largest. In 1988, after…
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