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Wild Cats

1428 words on

With the release of Mac OS X.5 – a.k.a. Leopard – today, it may be a good time to look back and see where it came from. Thankfully Apple’s numbering scheme is rather linear and apart from that whole X vs. 10 it’s easy to undestand, so we can just look up the memory lane.

Mac OS X.0 – Cheetah

While Mac OS 9 wasn’t a bad operating system (at least for me it was much stabler than many people want you to believe these days), the first release of Mac OS X was highly anticipated. Apple had been promising to give their OS amodern and solid underbelly for many years at that stage and failed a few times on the way. OS X was to be the answer to that promise. And I still remember how I was disappointed when the Mac OS X CD was missing from my TiBook’s package when I got it and I had to wait a bit longer to get a first try.

And man, that OS X was cool! That all shiny and pretty Aqua UI. Transparent menus. A Terminal. Not that I knew any commands other than top and cd to use on it, but it could display transparent windows! The OS could run applications not just in German but also in English and Japanese all from the same file. It hinted that the future would be Unicode. It was quite crash safe. You could do really silly things with your applications and nothing else was affected! And you had that pretty Dock with jumping icons and all. Great stuff.

For the first few hours anyway. Then you started realising that everything feels rather sluggish. That those pretty icons in the Dock take by far too many jumps before you can use the application. And that they’re wasting space. You may have also missed your Control Strip and Location Manager – or the ability to play DVDs and see the USB devices you attach actually work with the machine.

In all this ended up being a bit disappointing for real usage. Not much fun. More of an opportunity to look around on the new turf than to actually ‘live’ there. Perhaps even learn a bit about those magic new environments like Cocoa and the cool stuff like the Services Menu.

Of course the code name ‘Cheetah’ for the release seems a bit ironic when remembering its sluggishness. But then again, it founded the suspicion that OS X code names are inspired by the German military rather than wild cats. We even have two potential namesakes for this one, Gepard class boats and the Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard:

Photo of a FLAK Panzer Gepard from Wikipedia
[photo credit]

Mac OS X.1 – Puma

Just a few months later OS X.1 came. Not only was this the only free major OS X update there was. It also fixed many big problems of X.0. Most notably the speed was greatly improved and basic things like playing DVDs or burning CDs actually started working. That was good enough for me and I switched to using OS X full time. Other people felt things were still a bit sluggish, new and incomplete, though. And they happily stuck with Mac OS 9.

This version’s namesake is hard to pinpoint. It could either be a Nazi Tank or an upcoming German tank as depicted below. I’ll leave that choice to the experts (and exclude the French helicopter, the Israeli combat vehicle and the armoured South African vehicle from the list…).

Photo of a Schützenpanzer Puma
[photo credit]

Mac OS X.2 – Jaguar

Less than a year later the next major update came along and had to be paid for. It finally brought OS X to a level that made it safe to introduce it to your parents. The highlight of X.2 was Apple opening their Address Book to third party developers. Not only did that prove rather useful for GeburtstagsChecker right away but it also showed that Apple were prepared to open up frameworks so applications could share data and make usage more convenient. Apple also started making serious steps towards including real applications with the OS in the form of iChat and they started working on Safari towards the end of X.2’s lifecycle.

Omitting the Franco-British attack aircrafts, potential namesakes are a class of German war ships and a series of German tanks (photos, photos):

Jaguar tank

Mac OS X.3 – Panther

After a bit more than a year the next iteration of OS X was released. OS X had come of age, things solidified and new stuff could be seen. From my point of view Exposé was the star of innovations in that release and the improvements to OS X’S PDF engine and Preview’s speed really made a difference. But there were loads of additional improvements as well. From the introduction of the risky FileVault technology to the much longed for Fast User Switching. From videoconferencing in iChat to direct support for Zip archives. And so on. A rather big update. And also the first one to last well over a year before being replaced by its successor.

Potential namesakes are a British Army vehicle, a US jet fighter, a European helicopter and a Nazi Tank:

Photo of a broken  Panther Tank
[photo credit]

MacOS X.4 – Tiger

And thus we have arrived today, in the years of the Tiger. A release that once again contained some exciting new stuff in the OS and brought a number of improvements. I looked at a couple of those shortly after the release and we have things like the Dashboard or the included Dictionary standing out in day to day use with Spotlight being a fastastic technology in theory but disappointing a little in terms of speed and UI (and breaking on my machine).

Under the hood, X.4 is quite exciting as well – with the Intel transition happening in its era and a number of interesting developer technologies like CoreData, CoreImage or Quartz Composer being included.

Namesakes for this release could be a European Attack helicopter or – once more – a Nazi tank (which is in fact the successor of the Panther tank seen above):

Tiger tank
[photo credit]

Mac OS X.5 – Leopard

And there we are. The latest and greatest version of Mac OS X so far will start invading our hard drives today. Time will tell which of its features and refinements will be the most useful ones. Backups with Time Machine? Resolution independence? Easy animation effects for applications? Firefox like finding in Safari? Spotlight improvements? The Finder sucking less? General refinements?

Of course I have opinions on many of these points and I will try to write some of them up in coming weeks. But let’s see and use the final X.5 version for a while to really get an idea which of its new features are the most significant ones in practice.

And what about the namesake? Well this time it’s the machine that people who care for German military technology always seem to be quite proud about. The Leopard tank which already in its original configuration has been popular around the world and in its current version apparently kicks major ass.

Leopard tank
[photo credit]

And that’s that. The question arising is the one about the pet name for the next Mac OS X release. From what I read on the internet, the Leopard is pretty much the best tank you can buy, so it’s hard to see where to go from here. The name ‘cougar’ has been heard in rumours. And for sure that is used for military vehicles as well: European helicopter, American jet figher, American armoured vehicles. But somehow those just don’t seem like an improvement. [Besides, judging from the references at my disposal, a cougar is a form of puma, so things might get muddled up, even biologically.]

Perhaps it’d be a good idea if both operating system and weapon vendors stopped using the names of perfectly good animals for their products…

Image Credits

Thanks to Wikipedia for most of the war machine images and information. Specifically:

October 26, 2007, 0:00

Tagged as mac, os x, tank, X.5.


Comment by d.w.: User icon

Perhaps even more troubling, Cougar is common U.S. slang for an older (usually well-off) woman who has a predilection for much younger men (Mrs. Robinson is probably the prototype) :)

October 26, 2007, 18:18

Comment by Nerg: User icon

Software and German Tanks - wonderful combination :) Germanies war against Russia is an interest of mine

Though you did take license a little by showing a Tiger 2 (King Tiger - was never an official name) which did come after the Panther, but the original Tiger did not. The Panther replacement never entered service so I suppose it’s OK.

October 26, 2007, 21:55

Comment by MiGrant: User icon

Still waiting for the telepathic interface in Ocelot.

August 28, 2009, 23:38

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