Cats On The Prowl: The Evolution of Mac OS X From Cheetah To Mountain Lion [Gallery]

Cats On The Prowl: The Evolution of Mac OS X From Cheetah To Mountain Lion [Gallery]

The year is 2012, and the March of the Big Cats continues. Apple is about to release Mountain Lion, the latest iteration of (Mac) OS X, and citizens of the Appleverse are eager to explore what this new feline has to offer. How far we’ve come in just over a decade.

Back in 2001 Apple introduced their new, long awaited replacement to the Classic Macintosh System Software: Mac OS X. As Mountain Lion goes on the prowl, Cult of Mac reviews the Evolution of OS X and once again presents our look back at Apple’s Big Cats over the years – from Cheetah and Puma through to Apple’s current Felidae offerings.

Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah”, 10.1 “Puma” (2001)

10 0 4 Cheetah

After several abortive attempts, a succession of CEOs and the acquisition of NeXT, Apple finally shipped their next generation operating system in April of 2001. Codenamed “Cheetah”, Mac OS X 10.0 was more a proof of concept than a useable OS, but it put a Macintosh GUI on top of UNIX and told the world that Apple was serious about moving ahead. The 10.1 “Puma” release brought needed stability and more complete capabilities like CD recording and DVD playback, and was provided as a free upgrade.

Aqua was the lickable new visual theme for the system, with blue scrollbars, squishy buttons and a new gadget called The Dock. Mac OS 9 ran as Classic Mode, which was necessary since little native OS X software was available at this time. Internet Explorer was the web browser, Sherlock handled Find, and iTunes and iMovie were carried over from OS 9. The Chess application which debuted with Cheetah has changed little in ten years!

10.1 was also the last Mac OS release which used the Happy Mac face on startup; the more serious but less fun Apple icon with the spinning gear debuted in Jaguar.

Mac OS X 10.2 “Jaguar” (2002)

10 2 8 Jaguar

Jaguar was the first truly popular Mac OS X release, and most longtime Mac users made the jump to OS X with this version. 10.2 was the default boot choice on new Macs, and was the first to publicly use the development code name for marketing – the name “Jaguar” leaked out before launch, and people liked it, so Apple capitalized on the term. Big cats have been with us since.

Jaguar offered notable performance improvements, better printing options, and introduced Quartz Extreme graphics. Rendezvous appears with this release, a TCP/IP equivalent of AppleTalk. The iLife suite and Digital Hub concepts made their debut as this time, the iPhoto icon was added to dock and the iTunes icon changed to purple.

Safari, Apple’s new web browser, was introduced as an alternative if Microsoft discontinued Internet Explorer for Macintosh; shortly after release, Microsoft killed Explorer for Mac. The look and feel of the OS also started to evolve at this time, with Apple utilizing a mixed use of Aqua’s striped transparency and iTunes’ Brushed Aluminum themes.

Mac OS X 10.3 “Panther” (2003)

10 3 9 Panther

Panther was perhaps the first OS X release which truly began to feel faster than Mac OS 9. The OS was very snappy and useable, and most early filesharing and networking issues were finally resolved. The sidebar appeared in the Finder to assist with disk navigation, and the original Aqua look and feel began to wane. Brushed Aluminum would dominate for years to come, both onscreen and with Apple’s products themselves.

Fast User Switching was implemented in Panther, along with Exposé shortcuts and Filevault disk encryption. Rendezvous was renamed as Bonjour (some kind of rights issue), iTunes went green and the iTunes Music Store was born. iChat AV also appeared at this time, perhaps foreshadowing Apple’s move into more advanced communications technologies like the iPhone and FaceTime. But no one was (publicly) thinking that way at the time.

Next: Tiger to Snow Leopard

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  • Stefen Hernandez

    I was just thinking about that the other day, how in all these years not much has changed in the alert sounds. You would think with the whole “Back to the mac” they would bring alert sounds from the iPhone over to the mac.

  • Nikolai Baker

    It certainly is time for a (subtle) modernisation of the system sounds.

    And I’ll giggle if the most discussion on this article is system sounds!

  • Solowalker

    As an aside, while iTunes is bundled with the OS it isn’t really considered part of OS X and is updated separately (similar to iLife). Consequently, the iTunes icon changes had nothing to do with the OS version but were tied to iTunes versions. For a while, the icon changed color every version as a way to easily tell which version you were running, but that slowed with versions 4-6 (which were released in quick succession) and pretty much stopped with 7 until 10 was released. Check it out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITunes_version_history

    It’s also worth noting that very frequently iTunes hinted at new OS UI changes long before the new OS version was released, such as moving away from brushed metal to the solid grey and ditching colored sidebar icons.

  • Johnny Allain-Labon

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Snow Leopard Intel only, with Lion as 64 bit. Leopard was the last universal OS

  • Solowalker

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Snow Leopard Intel only, with Lion as 64 bit. Leopard was the last universal OS

    The article mentions Snow Leopard’s Intel-only status, but doesn’t mention 64-bit anywhere other than Leopard. Apple’s road to 64-bit has been long and slow, making it largely transparent to the end user (vs. Microsoft’s all-or-nothing approach starting with XP that broke all kinds of stuff and was mostly nothing but headaches).

    OS X has gradually added 64-bit support in rather clever ways, including being able to run 64-bit apps on a 32-bit OS (if your processor could handle 64-bit instructions). 64-bit support started with Tiger, where command line apps could be 64-bit. Leopard added 64-bit GUI apps. Snow Leopard introduced a(n optional) 64-bit kernel. If I recall correctly, Lion was just about all 64-bit but still ran some 32-bit kernel extensions–required a 64-bit processor but could run on 32-bit chipsets/EFI. Mountain Lion is 100% 64-bit kernel and will not support any 32-bit kernel extensions and even requires 64-bit EFI.

    I hope that answers your question. This would be good info to have in the article, too (with any gaps or errors I may have corrected).

  • BradMacPro

    The author has a minor mistake. Lion is also called OS X, not Mac OS X. He writes that change of dropping Mac from the name comes with Mountain Lion. And for Johnny Allain-Labon: Yes, Mac OS X 10.6.x Snow Leopard is Intel only. See http://support.apple.com/kb/SP575

  • BradMacPro

    The author has a minor mistake. Lion is also called OS X, not Mac OS X. He writes that change of dropping Mac from the name comes with Mountain Lion. And for Johnny Allain-Labon: Yes, Mac OS X 10.6.x Snow Leopard is Intel only. See http://support.apple.com/kb/SP575

  • Adam Rosen

    The article mentions Snow Leopard’s Intel-only status, but doesn’t mention 64-bit anywhere other than Leopard. Apple’s road to 64-bit has been long and slow, making it largely transparent to the end user

    You’re right, the move from 32-bit to 64-bit has been an ongoing transition for Mac OS X since Leopard, and indeed largely transparent to end users. Lion is now fully 64-bit. Thanks for pointing out that attribute.

  • Adam Rosen

    The author has a minor mistake. Lion is also called OS X, not Mac OS X. He writes that change of dropping Mac from the name comes with Mountain Lion.

    Actually Apple has referred to Lion both ways. If you look at the offering in the Mac App Store, it’s called “OS X Lion”, though if you look at the About This Mac… box on a system running Lion, it says “Mac OS X”. I’ve been using the descriptors in the About… box for this article.

  • joewaylo

    I’m betting OS X 10.9 will be called Lynx. The most dangerous ferocious cat.

  • Christian Moesgaard

    I think the most remarkable thing about this history is just how little it’s changed, and that is praise in every way you can regard it. OS 9 to OS 10 was a huge leap forward, to the point where OS 10.1 was arguably the equivalent to Windows 7 in terms of design. Ever since then it’s gotten incrementally better and continues to surpass Windows.

    If only the performance had been more solid… Well, it looks like Mountain Lion is finally getting it dead right.

  • Andrew Newsome

    I think the most remarkable thing about this history is just how little it’s changed, and that is praise in every way you can regard it. OS 9 to OS 10 was a huge leap forward, to the point where OS 10.1 was arguably the equivalent to Windows 7 in terms of design. Ever since then it’s gotten incrementally better and continues to surpass Windows.

    If only the performance had been more solid… Well, it looks like Mountain Lion is finally getting it dead right.

    Each operating system has their own pros and cons. I do not believe OS X “continues to surpass Windows”. I have a Windows custom build, and a 2012 macbook air. Really, there is hardly any difference, apart from the fact that it syncs seamlessly with my ipad and iphone.

  • Christian Moesgaard
    I think the most remarkable thing about this history is just how little it’s changed, and that is praise in every way you can regard it. OS 9 to OS 10 was a huge leap forward, to the point where OS 10.1 was arguably the equivalent to Windows 7 in terms of design. Ever since then it’s gotten incrementally better and continues to surpass Windows.

    If only the performance had been more solid… Well, it looks like Mountain Lion is finally getting it dead right.

    Each operating system has their own pros and cons. I do not believe OS X “continues to surpass Windows”. I have a Windows custom build, and a 2012 macbook air. Really, there is hardly any difference, apart from the fact that it syncs seamlessly with my ipad and iphone.

    The only redeeming qualities of Windows is that it isn’t tied to a specific piece of hardware and runs Office. Take any of these advantages away and Windows has no market except for games and legacy applications in business.

    This is why, by the way, there isn’t a Linux version of Office.

About the author

Adam RosenAdam Rosen is an Apple certified IT consultant specializing in Macintosh systems new and old. He lives in Boston with two cats and too many possessions. In addition to membership in the Cult of Mac, Adam has written for Low End Mac and is curator of the Vintage Mac Museum. He also enjoys a good libation.

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