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But as hard as it may be to believe in light of yet another
OS X macOS update, there are some who still use Apple's long-abandoned system. OS 9 diehards may hold on due to one important task they just can't replicate on a newer computer, or perhaps they simply prefer it as a daily driver. It only takes a quick trip to the world of subreddits and Facebook groups to verify these users exist.
Certain that they can't all be maniacs, I went searching for these people. I trawled forums and asked around, and I even spent more time with my own classic Macs. And to my surprise, I found that most of the people who cling staunchly to Mac OS 9 (or earlier) as a key component of their daily—or at least regular—workflow actually have good reason for doing so.
The reasons some Mac lovers stick with OS 9 are practically as numerous as Apple operating systems themselves. There are some OS 9 subscribers who hold out for cost reasons. Computers are prohibitively expensive where they live, and these people would also need to spend thousands on new software licenses and updated hardware (on top of the cost of a new Mac). But many more speak of a genuine preference for OS 9. These users stick around purely because they can and because they think classic Mac OS offers a more pleasant experience than OS X. Creatives in particular speak about some of OS 9's biggest technical shortcomings in favorable terms. They aren't in love with the way one app crashing would bring down an entire system, but rather the design elements that can unfortunately lead to that scenario often better suit creative work.
I'm alluding here specifically to the way OS 9 handles multitasking. Starting at System 5, classic Mac OS used cooperative multitasking, which differs from the preemptive multitasking of modern Windows and OS X and Linux. With classic Mac OS multitasking, when you want to change apps it's up to the active program to relinquish control. This focuses the CPU on just one or two things, which means it's terrible for today's typical litany of active processes. As I write this sentence I have 16 apps open on my iMac, some of which are running multiple processes and threads, and that's in addition to background syncing on four cloud services.
By only allowing a couple of active programs, classic Mac OS streamlines your workflow to closer resemble the way people think (until endless notifications and frequent app switching cause our brains to rewire). In this sense, OS 9 is a kind of middle ground between modern distraction-heavy computing and going analog with pen and paper or typewriter.
These justifications represent just a few large Mac OS 9 user archetypes. What follows is the testimony of several classic Mac holdouts on how and why they—along with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people around the world—continue to burn the candle for the classic Macintosh operating system. And given some of the community-led developments this devotion has inspired, OS 9 might just tempt a few more would-be users back from the future.
Remembering how the comments on Cunningham's article were littered with stories of people who still make (or made, until only a short time beforehand) regular use of OS 9 for getting things done, I first posed the question on the Ars forums. Who regularly uses Mac OS 9 or earlier for work purposes? Reader Kefkafloyd said it's been rare among his customers over the past several years, but a few of them keep an OS 9 machine around because they need it for various bits of aging prepress software. Old versions of the better-known programs of this sort—Quark, PageMaker, FrameMaker—usually run in OS X's Classic mode (which itself was removed after 10.4 Tiger), though, so that slims down the pack of OS 9 holdouts in the publishing business even further.
Wudbaer's story of his workplace's dedication to an even older Mac OS version suggests there could be more classic Mac holdouts around the world than even the OS 9ers. These users are incentivized to stick with a preferred OS as long as possible so they can use an obscure but expensive program that's useful enough (to them) to justify the effort. In Wudbaer's case, it's the very specific needs of custom DNA synthesis standing in the way of an upgrade.
'The geniuses who wrote the software we have to use to interface the machines with our lab management software used a network library that only supports 16-bit machines,' he wrote. This means Wudbaer and colleagues need to control certain DNA synthesizers in the lab with a 68k Mac via the 30-year-old LocalTalk technology. The last 68k Macintosh models, the Performa 580CD and the PowerBook 190, were introduced in mid-1995. (They ran System 7.5.)
This DNA synthesis lab has two LC III Macs and one Quadra 950 running continuously—24 hours a day, seven days a week—plus lots of spare parts and a few standby machines that are ready to go as and when needed. The synthesizers cost around 30,000-40,000 Euros each back in 2002 (equivalent to roughly $35-50k in 2015 terms), so they want to get their money's worth. The lab also has newer DNA synthesizers that interface with newer computers and can chemically generate many more oligonucleotides (short synthetic DNA molecules) at once. This higher throughput comes with a tradeoff, however. Whereas the old synthesizers can synthesize oligonucleotides independently of each other (thereby allowing easy modifications and additional couplings), the new ones do them all in one bulk parallel process, meaning the extra stuff has to wait until afterward. More work means more time, and as Wudbaer says, 'time is money.'
On the Facebook group Mac OS 9 - it's still alive!, people trade more of these OS 9 endurance stories. Some prefer it for writing environment. Others keep it around for bits and pieces of work that require expensive software such as Adobe's creative suite or a CAD package or Pro Tools or specifically to open old files created with this software. Most use it for old Mac games, of which there are far more than the Mac's game-shy reputation would suggest—but that's a story for another day. A scant, brave few not only struggle through OS 9 for these sorts of offline tasks, but they also rely on it as a Web browsing platform.
macOS is the operating system that powers every Mac. It lets you do things you simply can’t with other computers. That’s because it’s designed specifically for the hardware it runs on — and vice versa. macOS comes with an entire suite of beautifully designed apps. It works hand in hand with iCloud to keep photos, documents, and other stuff up to date on all your devices. It makes your Mac work like magic with your iPhone and other Apple devices. And it’s been built from the ground up with privacy and security in mind.
Featuring all-new, dedicated apps for music, TV, and podcasts. Smart new features in the apps you use every day. And Sidecar, which lets you use iPad as a second Mac display.
Easy to Use When it’s simple to
everything, you can do anything.
On a Mac, everything is designed to work just the way you expect it to — from operating it with simple, intuitive gestures to asking Siri to find a file to having your apps automatically update themselves. Whatever you set out to do on a Mac, there’s much less to learn and that much more to accomplish.
The Finder lets you easily browse and organize the files on your Mac — and those stored in iCloud Drive. View files by icons, in a list, or with Gallery View, which helps you quickly locate a file by how it looks. Drag and drop files into folders in the sidebar. And use the Preview pane to see all of your files’ metadata, quickly create .zip files, and share using the handy Share menu.
Dark Mode adds a dramatic look to your desktop and apps that puts the focus on your content. Dynamic Desktop makes your Mac even more beautiful with time-shifting desktop pictures that match the time of day wherever you are. And Stacks keeps your desktop free of clutter by automatically organizing your files, images, documents, PDFs, and more into tidy groups.
Spotlight helps you quickly and effortlessly find what you want, like documents on your Mac, movie showtimes, and flight departure and arrival times. Just type a few keystrokes in the Spotlight search field and autocomplete immediately shows you relevant results.1
A simple two-finger swipe from the right edge of your trackpad brings up Notification Center — the same one you use on iPhone — where you can see all the alerts that have come in recently. It’s also where you’ll find your Today view, which you can customize with helpful widgets or handy information pinned from Siri searches.
Siri helps you get things done just by using your voice. It also helps you get more things done at the same time. So you can finish your document while asking Siri to tell your coworker that it’s on the way. Looking for the presentation you worked on last week? Just ask Siri.2 And with Apple Music, Siri can be your personal DJ and recommend music based on your tastes, and tell you more about songs, albums, and artists.3
Continuity All your devices.
One seamless experience.
Your Mac works with your other Apple devices in ways no other computer can. If you get a call on your iPhone, you can take it on your Mac. And when friends text you — regardless of the phone they have — you can respond from your Mac, iPad, or iPhone, whichever is closest. When you copy text or an image from one device, you can paste it into another with standard copy and paste commands. And with Sidecar, you can extend your workspace by using your iPad as a second Mac display. You can even unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch. No password typing required.
Privacy and Security We believe your data belongs to you. Period.
Everything you do with your Mac is protected by strong privacy and security features. That’s because we build data security into everything we make, right from the start.
Privacy. You trust our products with your most personal information, and we believe that you should be in complete control of it. We respect your privacy by enacting strict policies that govern how all data is handled. And when you browse the web, Safari helps prevent data companies from tracking the sites you visit.
Security. We design Mac hardware and software with advanced technologies that work together to help you run apps safely, protect your data, and keep you safe on the web. The new Find My app helps you locate a missing Mac that’s lost or stolen — even if it’s offline or sleeping. And Gatekeeper makes it safer to download and install apps from the Mac App Store and the internet.
Built in Apps Apps as powerful and elegant as your Mac. Because they’re designed for it.
With every Mac, you get a collection of powerful apps. They’re the same apps you use on your iPhone or iPad, so they’ll feel instantly familiar. They all work with iCloud, so your schedule, contacts, and notes are always up to date everywhere. And because they’re native apps — not web apps in a browser — they take full advantage of the power of your Mac to deliver the fastest possible performance and more robust features.
Media. Experience music, TV, and podcasts in three all-new Mac apps. Get all the news that matters from sources you trust, all in one place.4 Track the market and customize your watchlist. Peruse the best book titles from your desktop. And find the latest apps and extensions for your Mac, right on your Mac.
Creativity. Enjoy your best photos and videos, showcased in an immersive, dynamic new look. Transform home videos into unforgettable movies or quickly share clips with your favorite people. Create music like the pros with a huge collection of sounds, instruments, amps, and a lineup of virtual session drummers and percussionists perfectly suited to play along with your song.
Productivity. Create beautiful documents with stunning simplicity. Visualize your data precisely and persuasively in spreadsheets with images, text, and shapes. Make stage-worthy presentations using powerful graphics tools and dazzling cinematic effects to bring your ideas to life. And collaborate with friends and coworkers in real time — whether they’re across town or across the globe.
Communication. Easily manage all of your email accounts in one simple, powerful app that works with email services like iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft Exchange. Send unlimited messages to anyone on any Apple device, using the same Messages app on your Mac as you do on your iPhone. Make unlimited high-quality video and audio calls right from your Mac with FaceTime. And securely locate a missing Mac using the new Find My app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
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Organization. A new gallery view and more powerful search help you find your notes more quickly than ever. Easily create, organize, and add attachments to reminders. Manage your iCloud, Google, and Exchange calendars in one place, create separate calendars for home, work, and school, and view them all or just the ones you want. Instantly capture personal reminders, class lectures, even interviews or song ideas with Voice Memos. Keep all your contact info up to date on all your devices, and easily import numbers, addresses, and photos from Google and Microsoft Exchange. And control all your HomeKit-enabled accessories from the comfort of your desktop.
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Internet. Surf the web seamlessly with an updated start page that helps you quickly access your favorite and frequently visited sites. Use Apple Pay to make purchases on the web in Safari with Touch ID on MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. Map out new destinations from your desktop, with gorgeous 3D city views like Flyover, point-to-point directions, and comprehensive transit directions. And instantly search your entire Mac or get results from the internet in just a few keystrokes.
iCloud All your stuff on your Mac.
And everywhere else you want it.
Every Apple app uses iCloud — it’s the magic behind the seamless experience you have with all your Apple devices. So you always have your photos, videos, documents, email, notes, contacts, calendars, and more on whatever device you’re using. And any file you store in iCloud Drive can be shared with friends, family, and colleagues just by sending them a link. iCloud Drive also lets you access files from your Mac on your iPhone or iPad. It’s all done automatically. Just like that.5
Accessibility We make sure that everyone is able to use a Mac.
macOS comes standard with a wide range of assistive technologies that help people with disabilities experience what the Mac has to offer, providing many features you won’t find in other operating systems. Voice Control lets users control their Mac, iPad, and iPhone entirely with their voice. And features such as VoiceOver, Accessibility Keyboard, FaceTime,6 and Text to Speech help everyone get more out of Mac.
Technology Advanced to the core.
macOS features powerful core technologies engineered for the most important functions of your Mac. Thanks to Mac Catalyst, you can now enjoy your favorite iPad apps on your Mac. With SwiftUI, developers have a simple way to build better apps across all Apple platforms with less code. Create ML gives developers a faster and easier way to build machine learning into apps. And support for virtual and augmented reality lets developers create immersive worlds for you to step into.
Compatibility Need to work with Windows?
Mac does that, too.
With macOS, it’s easy to transfer your files, photos, and other data from a Windows PC to your Mac. Work with popular file types such as JPEG, MP3, and PDF, as well as Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. And, of course, you can run Microsoft Office natively on a Mac. If you want, you can even run Windows on your Mac.7
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