FTLComm - Tisdale - March 24, 2001
The Operating System Revolution


Computers have been with us much longer that most people realise and the we interact and utilise these powerful tools is about to change radically. I first began making regular use of a computer in 1981 and it has been part of my life every day since December of that year. So when you think about it, I and many people like me, have moved along with computer developments for twenty years and of course they were part of the larger business world for twenty years before that. My first year collage was in 1962 and IBM was a very busy up and coming company in sixty two with an office on Albert Street where I was know to hang around and talk to the powerhouse of a manager who at the time considered the work they were doing as old stuff.




To get you up to speed on this issue, we all began using computers through a system of line commands which instructed the computer to carry out the actions we were prescribing. These line commands used a reserved language that the computer could handle and we also all had a go at constructing "basic" programmes which would be initiated by a line command. "run"




The line commands most people began with were those which controlled the floppy disk drive and what ever was on the disk and this language was "DOS" (Disk Operating System). In the spring of 83 we who were using Apple // computers began switching from DOS to PRODOS which was a modified version of disk operating commands that would allow the accessing of volumes thus letting us utilise hard drives. When Lisa arrived here in Canada the following year it came with an internal hard drive and when the Apple //gs was released it came with a socket to connect to a hard disk (SCSI).




In 1984 people were buying Macintosh computers which did not have DOS but instead acted and performed as directed by a pointing device (mouse) which was a direct descendent of a Lisa. By 1986 the Macintosh II machines came out able to handle two or more monitors and colour. Since then the Macintosh with its graphic user interface (GUI) we have all happily known that we are efficient computer users.




I am telling you all this because without the background, the present is a little hard to understand.




In 1986 IBM began making personal computers for the first time and they were hard nosed about it and other similar computers were being used in business all using a version of DOS bought by a Washington State company called Microsoft. Every computer (except Macintoshes) included in its price the licensing cost of that DOS operating component. The only way to make these computers function, just had been the case with all other early computers was through line commands. You had to type in the instructions that would tell it what to do.



Windows 3.1

The fact was that though line commands make for excellent speed of operation they make it very difficult for a user to learn what to tell the computer and with the complex applications that were being developed it was absolutely necessary that a system that would be easier to use had to be introduced and so Microsoft brought out Windows, the popular and most widely used version of this was , still widely used today. All other versions of Windows would build upon the basic design of this application that ran on top of DOS.




Windows by Microsoft was similar to Apple's Macintosh operating systems but was designed as an adaptable application that provided a sort of interface for the user. The Macintosh system was all that the user could access and beneath it was the "C" machine language and to make this operating system even more efficient Apple built a significant amount of programming right into the computer's hardware in the form of read only memory (ROM).




Time and technology do not run in a proportionate manner and things have been cascading a bit. Each three year cycle Microsoft has upgraded its operating system with newer more powerful versions. They spent a lot of money developing a business version of Windows called Windows NT and with Windows 2000 used NT as the basis for all future operating system development. This their newest version will be released.




Generation after generation of Macintosh operating systems have come and been replace almost every six months and surprisingly about every five years or so that software required new hardware but most applications developed back in 1986 still work quite well on brand new machines. In 1996 Apple was struggling with a new operating system that would take advantage of the Power PC micro processor developed jointly by IBM and Motorola using reduced input commands (RISC). But, to maintain backward compatibility there were some serious restrictions on this development. In December that year it was decided to drop their work and move to a UNIX based programming system and Apple purchased NeXT and began adapting that operating system to handle the familiar Macintosh environment.




Today, Apple released this new operating system which they call OS X (operating system ten). The reason for this new software is perhaps just as valid as the original development of the Lisa system in the early 80s and that was to produce an even more efficient means to get a computer to do what you want. The fabulous processors of today (G3 and G4 -"G" meaning generation, of the power PC processors) are astonishingly efficient. They use little electricity and are cool running, so cool that the iMac does not even come equipped with a fan. The chip itself runs programmes about twice as fast as Pentium based computers with equivalent megahertz speed processors. But to get that speed onto the screen and into the work environment the operating system needed to be unencumbered by the emulation modes it was carrying out to run old software.



It is believed that Microsoft is faced with a similar problem and its new operating system will also be designed to further utilise the improved capabilities of the modern Pentium and competing processors currently used in non-Machintosh computers. Since users spent all of their working time facing these screens the thinking is that they not only need to really efficiently handle the chores but they have to look elegant doing it.




Elegance is definitely what Apple has achieved with OS X, this is a sumptuous looking operating system, rich in colour and graphic design. When you close a window it swishes into oblivious like a Genie back into its bottle. Everything you see on the screen is attractive and esthetically detailed to make the persons work and computer experience pleasant.



own stuff

UNIX is a very hard core business operating system that uses cryptic commands to execute operations at blinding speed on mainframe machines. It is as elegant in a programming way as the new OS X is in its design and visual presentation. This new Apple Macintosh operating system can be by passed and the line commands used. Because of its direct simplicity with the operating system comes a CD with the tools to create applications of your own, low and behold we are back to the same situation we saw in the introduction of the early Apple ][ with the user able to create his own stuff.



not there
at all

All of this sounds great, but if you have seen as much come and go in the world of computer technology, you soon learn caution and contempt for promises. For now Mac OS X is not a reality, it is a promise. It took almost two hours to get it into my G3 Pro Yosemite and I had to dismantle the machine removing working parts (SCSI card and ATI Xclaim VR card) in order to get it even to fire up the install disk. Once installed I discovered I was no longer using a familiar Macintosh computer but a new interface, a new GUI not Macintosh and certainly not Windows but something new that will require a good deal of unlearning for me to use efficiently. This is all part of the game, I understand that, but what puzzles me is that so many things that are should be functional are simply not there at all.




In 1984 my Apple //e was capable of communication with other computers, since then AppleTalk, being able to network computers has been part of all Apple computer systems. Networking has been built in for years and since 95 all business Macintoshes have come with built in Ethernet. Yet the new OS can not talk to networks that are not like itself. Hours of extra work and more software will have to be installed in my system to let my computer run on OS X and see other computers in the system.




I have put my computer back together and am writing this using its old operating system (9.1 is the operating system I am currently using and it was released January 12th of this year) for me and my system OS X just doesn't work. To get it to run on a computer you need to have a G3 computer or a G4 that includes all iMacs, but you need a minimum of 128Mb of RAM and about 1.2 GB of drive space. Most peripheries will not work and at present there are few if any applications to work on the machine in its OSX configuration. This is understandable it was only released to the public today. But everything, all applications on my computer will run on the new system since this OS plays a neat trick.




When you launch an old application it just takes and runs your old operating system as though it were an application and runs the old application on that system. I tried it and it works just fine, Photoshop ran faster. This means that once we get the bugs worked out with printers and peripheries we should be able to use it with little trouble. All we need to do is master the new and different ways of making applications and operations take place.




The new operating system is extremely graphic, everything has visual cues and there are multiple ways of doing almost everything. But without a doubt it is those things that have become a basic part of the operating system that will make new user by new computers this summer and later with OS X installed. Every facet of the Internet is part and parcel of the operating system. There is no e-mail application it is part of the operating system. The image below is the e-mail system, efficient and easy to use.


We all assume that this amazing integration will proliferate to the extent that you will simply not be consciously aware of when you are using or not interacting with online data and events.
  Now to see more about the system go to Apple's web site and click on the button "OS X" in the top row and you will get a basic tutorial on the system. I am going spend some time there and get myself oriented to the system.
  by: Timothy W. Shire