Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

Mac OS 8.1 to Mac OS X

by Stuart Bonwit

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

I believe that, if something works, do not mess with it; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

That was my philosophy with my Power Mac 8600 and Mac OS 8.1. And it worked for a long time.

My main preoccupation with my computer is creating animations. My Power Mac 8600 with Mac OS 8.1 was doing fine making and playing the animations. It still does. I use an animation program called Poser 4 from Curious Labs.

I was reading on the Poser newsgroup about all the wonderful things people were doing with Poser 5 for the PC. A question to Curious Labs got the answer that they were “working on” Poser 5 for the Mac. Out of the blue I got a (broadcast) email from Curious Labs that Poser 5 for Mac OS X was available for download. Two reasons I did not download it: 1) I was still on dialup and the file was multimegabyte; 2) I wanted a physical thing such as a CD and (ha, ha) a printed user’s manual. [Two more things: 3) I have not yet bought anything on the Internet! 4) I didn’t have Mac OS X.]

A subsequent Curious Labs email announced that the “boxed” Poser 5 for Mac OS X would be available in October 2003. Wow! As soon as it’s available I’d get a new computer.

Well, things started falling apart (not with Poser). My system with Netscape 4.73 was having increasing troubles. I would download a Web page. Usually the banner would appear quickly. Then there would be lots of activity; I could see indicators of lots of bits coming into my computer. This would suddenly stop with a blank screen. The gurus at the Washington Apple Pi TCS (bulletin board) would tell me this is because I have that old Netscape; I should upgrade. It turns out that the latest Netscape that works with Mac OS 8.1 is Netscape 4.73!

In the meantime my wife is bugging me to get high-speed. She wants nothing to do with the Internet. When she wants something looked up, she asks me. She then sits next to me at the computer (in dialup) and complains that it is too slow. So, I got DSL. It was great. But the only difference was that those blank screens just came in faster!

I finally said, “The ____ with it. New computer!” Should it be an iMac flat panel or a Power Mac G5? A purely non-technical consideration pointed to the iMac: We will probably soon be leaving our big house for an apartment. The small size of the iMac was the deciding factor.

So, I got the iMac and bunch of other stuff. As of about 3-1/2 weeks after the purchase, most of the “other stuff” is still in the boxes. My wife suggested that she inherit the Power Mac 8600 to replace her old beloved 75 MHz PC. Her reasoning: 17” screen vs 15”; 300 MHz processor instead of 75 MHz; and the paint program (Color it!) and the word processor (WordPerfect) were vastly superior to what she had on the PC. I then made the Big Mistake; I said, “Yes,” (to her request). She installed a couple of her favorite PC/Mac programs. Now, I can’t get her off the ____ machine!

So, I turn on the iMac. Read the ____ manual? Are you kidding? We’re talking Mac! And I say, “What’s all the fuss? This works just like my old 8600.” All (most?) of the keyboard shortcuts are the same. Yes, some of the details of controlling displayed pages are a little different but they’re obvious. I subsequently learned that there are lots of differences, many of which consumed much time corresponding on the Pi’s TCS forums. For instance: In WAP Webmail for Delete, Purge, and Send there is no “are you sure” warning/button; there appears to be no alarm clock; the up/down and left/right arrows in windows are each close to each other rather than at ends of the scroll bars, a convenience (and a choice); the Empty Trash command is right above the trash can, another convenience; there is no listing of all open applications as on the 8600 in the upper right corner; and, boy, what security: you can even put passwords on individual files (could you do that in Mac OS 8.1?).

When I first fired up the DSL on the iMac [it worked right off; DSL was already working on the 8600], I was informed by Apple that there was an upgrade for Mac OS X 10.2.7 to 10.2.8. I downloaded and installed it. And for someone who stuck with Mac OS 8.1 for an eternity, I thought this early update was pretty cool!

One thing I noticed right off is that on the 17” wide screen, everything is squeezed over on the left side. On the other hand, I can have two word processing documents on at the same time at extreme left and right. I can even have a third page in the middle. If it is behind the others, it is still visible and can be easily brought forward with a click.

Mac OS X apparently assumes that the user is not well organized. The whole filing system is set up at the very first boot. And when you save something, it “knows” where to put it. You may disagree and change it.

So, there you have a greenhorn’s early experiences with Mac OS X. Be sure to tune in for the next thrilling installment!