MacOS meets UNIX

Never the Twain Shall Meet

Is anyone else curious how Apple is going to disguise the UNIX origins of the NeXT operating system from MacOS users of the future? NeXT's origins date back to the early 1980's when Avadis "Avie" Tevanian, now the vice president of software engineering at Apple, developed the Mach kernel at Carnegie Mellon. Steve Jobs snapped him up in 1988 for his newly developed NeXT corporation. They built NEXTSTEP, a graphical high-performance OS on top of UNIX. With the sale to Apple, NEXTSTEP is poised to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes of NeXT, reincarnated as Rhapsody, Apple's replacement for the doomed Copland.

This isn't the first time a version of UNIX has run on Macintosh hardware. There is a version of Linux for the 68K chips. Apple has also sold AIX, native UNIX from IBM on its Network Servers. These variants didn't attempt to hide their UNIX roots, however.

Graphical UNIX variants can certainly conceal much of the cryptic UNIX filesystem and process management. But will the NeXT team be able to hide enough below the UI to appease the masses of current MacOS users?

A Pretty Face

Rhapsody just shipped to Mac developers. You can read about it at, which has morphed into a developer support site for Rhapsody. The familiar MacOS menu can be seen eerily floating atop the standard NeXT windows. The developer documentation talks more about high-level application development than the underpinnings of the OS.

Between the high-level development environment and the Borg-like merging of the NeXT and MacOS user interfaces, perhaps end users will avoid the nitty-gritty tasks usually associated with UNIX systems. I can't imagine that the NeXT team has completely stripped out all of their handy UNIX tools, though. Will the presence of a shell window be a boon to power users or a scary complication to novices?

And the Winner Is...

My prediction is that the UNIX community will be the ultimate winner. The eroding market share of UNIX as compared to Windows NT may recover, if only briefly, as millions of Mac users become UNIX users (whether they know it or not).

Copyright © 2020 Andrew Oliver