Alex Kaloostian

Apple Certified Master Trainer | Systems Integrator | Video Editor | Motion Graphics Artist

An OS by any other name

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Apple has a naming problem.

It’s not a big issue, certainly. It’s nothing that would cause strife or send Apple back to the good old “beleaguered” days. Buts its mildly annoying, and if Apple’s obsessive attention to detail has done anything for me, it has made me much more aware of mild annoyances.

Back in the 90’s, Apple was getting along with System 9, their main and only OS. It was popular enough, it made the iMac possible, it had some genuinely powerful features, and we Apple faithful tried really really hard to convince people it was the greatest OS in the world, but it really wasn’t, not by a long shot. Not even by 1998 standards. The main problem was, it was built on old code. System 9 was built on top of System 8, which was built on top of System 7, and so on, until the whole thing was a big teetering mess, less like an OS and more like the Weasley’s house.

System 9: built on the most advanced OS 1984 had to offer.

Apple knew this, and knew they had to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. They looked at BeOS, which at the time was amazingly advanced and far ahead of the competition, but eventually they settled on NeXTSTEP, which itself was very poplar, stable and advanced. NeXTSTEP’s big advantage was that it was built on top of a rock-solid UNIX foundation, and it was loved by those techies in the know. For instance, Tim Berners-Lee developed the first web browser on Next, and id Software created the Doom engine with it. I can’t go into all of NeXT’s history here, but check out the Wikipedia article, its full of fascinating stuff.  Despite all of this, you’re not going to convince me Apple didn’t pick NeXT over BeOS because they wanted the OS- they also wanted Steve Jobs back.

"Jony Ive and our team pioneered a brand new reforging process to recreate Narsil in exacting detail. We'd like to show it to you now."

“Jony Ive and our team pioneered a brand new reforging process to recreate Narsil in exacting detail. We’d like to show it to you now.”

Anyway, I’m getting off on a tangent. Apple has this great new (to them) OS built on top of UNIX, and they need to give it a name. The number after 9 happens to be 10, and the roman numeral for 10 is X. Just by coincidence, the letter X had been long associated with the UNIX world, so it was kismet the OS should be named OS X. (Yes, you’re supposed to pronounce it “o-s-ten”, not “o-s-x”).

Then some time went by, and Apple inevitably made improvements to OSX, and when a new version was ready, rather than calling it OS XI, or OS 11, they went with OS X version 10.1. There was a bit of confusion, but for the most part, it made sense, and we all rolled with it. When OS X version 10.2 came out, no one was surprised.

For more than a decade, we went along with this… OS X version 10.2, 10.3, 10.4, and so on, and we didn’t really even call it that much, because pretty early on, people started to realize Apple’s internal code names were way cooler- “Panther”, “Cheetah”, “Jaguar”, and we started calling it by those names instead, and Apple eventually realized they couldn’t stop it, so they rolled along with it. When someone says they are using “OS X 10.8”, or they are using “Mountain Lion”, they mean the same thing.

500 new features? More like 500 new bugs.

500 new features? More like 500 new bugs.

But now, we have once again reached a point where this is starting to get strange. It was fine to say “10.9”, but when “10.10” came out, it just felt… a little awkward. Moreso, as Apple slots in minor security patches and bug fixes… we are currently up to OS X version 10.10.3, with version 10.10.4 on the way. I couldn’t even TYPE that without messing it up a couple of times. When the next iteration is announced in a couple weeks, if they decide to call it OS X version 10.11, that is just going to get awkward.

Like everyone on the internet, I believe I have a better solution.

Let’s look at Apple’s other OS’s: the iPhone, iPod, iPad and AppleTV all run iOS, currently version 8. When they inevitably get to iOS version 10, or iOS version 11, this isn’t going to sound as awkward, because iOS doesn’t have the word ten it in, duh. Likewise, the Apple Watch runs Watch OS, and while I think they should have left out the space and un-capitalized the W, just for consistency’s sake, I’m still okay with it. So why not rename OS X as MacOS. That way, we can call it MacOS version 11, with no trouble.

iOS, WatchOS, MacOS. Simple, right?

They won’t, I bet. And this time next year, Ill be giving lectures and getting tongue-tied over the phrase “Upgrade to Apple Server version five dot oh dot three for OS Ten version ten dot eleven dot four”.

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Author: alexkaloostian

I'm a video editor, motion graphics designer and Mac IT consultant in the Boston area.

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