An Apple Mac OS X Public Beta CD-ROM.

On Sept. 13, 2000, Apple launched Mac OS X Public Beta, the first public liberate of OS X to incorporate the Dock. It was once additionally the first to characteristic the exceptional eye sweet that was once the Aqua interface. It marked the starting of a brand new technology for Mac, and one we’re nonetheless residing in 20 years later.

A Lifeline for Apple

By the overdue ’90s, Apple’s vintage Mac OS felt antiquated. It didn’t beef up secure reminiscence, pre-emptive multitasking, or user-level get right of entry to keep an eye on. It was once additionally at risk of irritating gadget crashes.

Its interface design was once, arguably, additionally falling at the back of Windows. Apple knew Mac OS wanted a basic redesign from the floor up. However, tool compatibility problems driven Apple to stay extending the similar fundamental gadget structure it had used since 1984.

Several menus open on an Apple Mac OS X Public Beta desktop.
The Apple Mac OS X Public Beta desktop. Marcin Wichary/Guidebook Gallery

The quest to switch vintage Mac OS was once an extended and messy procedure. It concerned a number of interior tasks and a seek for an acquisition goal that would possibly deliver new generation to the corporate. This led Apple to buy Steve Jobs’ NeXT in 1997 with the intent of creating its NeXTSTEP working gadget the foundation for a brand new, trendy alternative for Mac OS.

With Steve Jobs’ NeXT team in price, Apple started juggling the wishes of legacy Mac house owners, whilst making an attempt to make NeXTSTEP palatable to a mass target audience. The outcome was once Mac OS X.

Unlike Classic Mac OS (however like NeXTSTEP), Mac OS X was once in response to a Unix-like BSD core referred to as Darwin. This made it extremely strong and constructed the basis for the Mac to turn into the superb developer platform it was. Modern variations of macOS are nonetheless in response to the Darwin core.

After some early beta variations of OS X had been launched to builders in early 2000, Apple made up our minds to make the new OS to be had on CD-ROM via its site for $29.95. This allowed Mac house owners to place the new tool via its paces.

The Mac OS X Public Beta CD on the Apple website in October 2000.
The Mac OS X Public Beta CD on the market on Apple’s site, circa October 2000. Apple

Customers who bought the CD additionally gained a $30 cut price on a long run acquire of Mac OS X 10.0 (the Public Beta model expired on May 14, 2001). This gave other folks sufficient time to pattern the new OS and supply precious comments to Apple.

An Aqua Revolution

In 1999, Apple launched an early model of OS X in response to prototypes referred to as Rhapsody. It was once principally NeXTSTEP re-skinned with Apple’s vintage Mac OS “Platinum” theme.

While the underlying new generation was once there, Rhapsody’s dull glance didn’t excite many of us. It additionally didn’t encourage builders, who grumbled about having to rewrite their Mac tool for the new platform.

An Apple Mac OS 9 interface, and a Mac OS X Public Beta interface.
The “Platinum” Mac OS 9 (left), and the “Aqua” Mac OS X Public Beta (proper). Marcin Wichary/Guidebook Gallery

Apple knew it wanted one thing particular to draw extra consideration. The corporate secretly set to work on a flashy new interface referred to as Aqua. It incorporated integrated beef up for massive icons, and shadows and transparency. The colourful buttons and interface parts additionally had a contemporary translucent glance.

The Aqua interface was once an enormous marvel when Steve Jobs first introduced it at the Macworld Conference and Expo in January 2000 (see the video beneath). During his demo, Jobs thrilled in appearing off graphical options we now take without any consideration, like drop shadows underneath home windows, icon magnification, and high-resolution icons.

Aqua’s look has modified over the years, and Apple now not refers to it by way of identify. Still, it’s the foundation of the trendy macOS Catalina interface.

The Mac OS X Dock additionally debuted at that January 2000 demo. It supplied a versatile, succesful manner of launching and managing apps. It additionally in spite of everything allowed Mac OS to meet up with the capability of the Windows activity bar.

RELATED: Windows 95 Turns 25: When Windows Went Mainstream

Notable Similarities and Differences

The similarities between the 20-year-old Mac OS X Public Beta and macOS Catalina are beautiful superb. They each have the Dock, high-resolution icons, 3 window keep an eye on buttons (crimson, yellow, and inexperienced), world PDF beef up, and run on Darwin.

The Dock on Mac OS X Public Beta.
The Dock on Mac OS X Public Beta. Marcin Wichary/Guidebook Gallery

There’s a solid of acquainted integrated packages, as neatly: Preview,, TextEdit, Address Book, Stickies, QuickTime, Calculator, and an early model of Chess.

The Finder window on Apple Mac OS X Public Beta.
The Applications folder in Finder on Mac OS X Public Beta. Marcin Wichary/Guidebook Gallery

Mac OS X Public Beta additionally had some notable variations from Mac OS X and later macOS releases. One of the most blatant was once the Apple emblem was once in the heart of the menu bar, moderately than the higher left.

The Apple logo in the center of the menu bar on Mac OS X Public Beta.
The Apple emblem was once in the heart of the menu bar on Mac OS X Public Beta. Marcin Wichary/Guidebook Gallery

While Mac OS X Public Beta’s pinstripe theme and translucent sweet buttons persevered till Mac OS X 10.2, they had been in the end changed by way of a brushed steel glance with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther.

OS X Public Beta additionally lacked some purposeful comfort options, like Exposé, Widgets, Notifications, and Launchpad. It additionally didn’t come with an App Store—that didn’t arrive till 2011 as a obtain on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

A couple of notable Apps had been additionally lacking. Instead of Safari (which debuted in 2003), the Public Beta shipped with a model of Internet Explorer that had a unique Aqua theme.

A "Microsoft Internet Explorer" window on Mac OS X Public Beta.
Explorer on Mac OS X Public Beta. Marcin Wichary/Guidebook Gallery

OS X Public Beta additionally incorporated a state-of-the-art seek app referred to as Sherlock that was once later changed by way of Spotlight.

A Sherlock search window on Mac OS X Public Beta.
Marcin Wichary/Guidebook Gallery

There’s additionally no signal of iTunes or Apple Music, however only a bare-bones Music Player that might play CDs or MP3s. Even lacking those, despite the fact that, its extensive suite of incorporated packages and utilities makes Mac OS X Public Beta nonetheless really feel reasonably trendy.

A Continuing Legacy

Avie Tevanian, the former leader tool generation officer at Apple and a Mac OS X developer, as soon as stated Apple designed OS X with a 20-30 yr existence span in thoughts.

In 2000, 30 years should have appeared like an unthinkably very long time for a tool structure to stay viable. Yet, right here we’re at just about the finish of 2020, and OS X (now “macOS”) continues to do the heavy lifting for Macs. And it’s going to most probably proceed to take action for no less than some other decade, throughout many architectural shifts.