Happy Birthday Mac OS X

24 March, 2011 - Paul Dixon
Mac OS X

Mac OS X is ten years old today, the first of the cats – Cheetah (10.0) was released on the 24th of March 2001. I wish I could say my first experience of OS X was a positive one but it wasn’t. Although I had access to more modern iMacs at college my main machine back then was an old beige G3 desktop.

After spending half a day failing to even get 10.0 installed on the G3 I realised that the graphics card wasn’t compatible – originally intended for use in PCs the card had been flashed to work in Macs but 10.0 just didn’t know what to do with it. Once I’d removed the card I was finally able to experience the brave new world of Aqua.

I do still have a boxed version of 10.0 and this is how Aqua is described in the manual – “Aqua makes using your Mac easier than ever. It’s color, depth and motion guides you through your tasks, while the Finder and Dock provide access to your computer and network”. Based on the theme of water, Aqua had liberal uses of glossy buttons and translucent effects. Overall it looked quite nice compared to OS 9 but it was a little inconsistent in places as it also featured pin stripes in menu backgrounds, and over the top brushed steel in applications like QuickTime.

One of the main problems with 10.0 was that it felt a little slow, simple tasks like opening windows just wasn’t responsive enough even on more modern Macs of the time, let alone my G3. And of course, because it was such a radical switch from the previous OS, many applications and external devices like printers & scanners just didn’t work. Until third-parties upgraded their software you had to run an emulated version of Mac OS 9.2. It’s also worth pointing out that back then there was no Safari – the main Mac browser was Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.1!

Of course it wasn’t all bad though, you only have to look at screenshots of 10.0 to see that many of the features introduced back then (such as the dock) are still present in today’s Snow Leopard, and look set to remain in the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. It’s influence can even be seen outside of the Apple ecosystem, just look at the recent versions of Windows.

So once again, Happy Birthday Mac OS X!

About the author

Paul Dixon is the owner of Macsessed. He lives in Lancashire in the UK where he works as a web designer. You can find him on and Twitter.