Sys­tem 7

Adam Banks re­mem­bers the Mac OS that dom­i­nated the 1990s

Mac Format - - PHOTO STREAM -

Re­leased in May 1991, Sys­tem 7 was one of the big­gest ever up­dates to the clas­sic Mac­in­tosh oper­at­ing sys­tem. Co­de­named ‘Big Bang,’ it in­spired TV ad­verts tout­ing the Mac as ‘the world’s eas­i­est and most ad­vanced per­sonal com­puter.’

It was Sys­tem 7 that in­tro­duced fa­mil­iar fea­tures like full mul­ti­task­ing, file and folder aliases, help bub­bles, Ap­pleScript, and TrueType out­line fonts. And for the first time, the Mac­in­tosh user in­ter­face showed a touch of colour.

Un­der the hood, some big in­no­va­tions oc­curred in net­work­ing, help­ing to make it sim­ple enough to im­ple­ment in small of­fices and even homes; files and fold­ers could eas­ily be shared be­tween Macs and even with Win­dows PCs. An­other ma­jor ad­vance was mak­ing all apps ‘32‑bit clean,’ en­abling them to ad­dress more than eight megabytes of mem­ory. As a con­se­quence, how­ever, Sys­tem 7 shipped with a com­pat­i­bil­ity checker that warned users about ex­ist­ing soft­ware that wouldn’t work af­ter up­grad­ing, or could even pre­vent the Mac start­ing up.

This and the new oper­at­ing sys­tem’s out­ra­geous re­quire­ments – it took up over a megabyte of mem­ory, and made a hard disk oblig­a­tory – caused con­tro­versy, but Sys­tem 7 was rapidly adopted and proved ro­bust enough to carry Ap­ple through the next six years, smooth­ing the tran­si­tion to Pow­erPC pro­ces­sors.

It was a suc­cess for Ap­ple’s near-term ‘blue’ team of engi­neers, known as the Blue Mea­nies af­ter the char­ac­ters in the Bea­tles’

Yel­low Sub­ma­rine; the big­ger, long‑term ‘pink’ team, mean­while, fell into the oper­at­ing sys­tem strat­egy death spi­ral that would end in the 1997 pur­chase of NeXT.

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