Mac Lab Report

Four Classic Mac OS Features Still Missing in OS X

- 2005.03.08

I was thinking the other day about the fact that sometimes you think you know how something works, but then someone shows you that you didn't quite get it. This happens to me a lot, by the way, from all the very knowledgeable people who stumble across these humble missives and teach me new things.

For example, sometimes I worry about writing about a feature because I'm not quite sure I completely understand it and will risk looking like a doofus™ when I do. Usually Dan (Our Dear Editor) catches these things and lets me know about them before posting my articles.

This is one of those things, so if I say something stupid, forgive me.

I used to be able to do certain things in OS 9, and I miss those things in OS X. OS X and Aqua are really nice, but there are a few things I'd like to see return.

For example, I miss those tabbed folders you could make in OS 9 by dragging the window to the bottom of the screen. The Dock is supposed to be an evolved version of this - except you can't put folders in the Dock. [Editor's note: Yes, you can put folders in the Dock, but they don't work like they did in OS 9.] The folder tabs didn't do anything unless you clicked on them, and everything stayed in one place, not sliding around like the Dock has to do make everything fit.

What else do I miss?

A location function that not only changes my network settings (as in OS X) but also my preferred printer, desktop picture, volume settings, and whatever the heck I want to add to the list. OS 9 used to do it with the Location Manager control panel.

Installing and temporarily disabling system extensions at startup. [Editor's note: Okay, they're not called extensions any more, but you know what we mean.] Of course, OS X apologists would have you believe you don't need to fiddle with system extensions because OS X never crashes. Not to burst your bubble or anything, but I've never used a computer I couldn't cause to freeze or crash.

In fact, in my illustrious career, I've managed to crash (software wise) a copy machine, a calculator, and every operating system I ever used - OS X, OS 4-9, Apple II, Atari, DOS, all 31 flavors of Windows™, some Linux distribution I used for a day, a Prime minicomputer [I kind of cheated on that one], a VIC-20, a Commodore 64, a Timex-Sinclair 1000, an Atari 2600 home video game, a Pac-man home version I bought in a joystick handle for Christmas, and a red-LED-only football game I got in 1980-something.

It was nice being able to fix things without a degree in computer science. Now, I've cracked open the Terminal and done a few tricks, but only because I had to. That doesn't mean it was fun.

I also wish OS X could link all kinds of sounds to system events. I did it with shareware in OS 9 and have never even looked to see if there's such a thing of OS X. It's not essential, but it is fun.

I think OS X is great and, given a choice, I use OS X over OS 9. But that doesn't mean that I think everything about OS 9 was bad. I still use it on my student machines, for example.

What do you miss (if anything?) Drop me a note.

Thanks to those who wrote. We've published Lost Classic Mac OS Features Revived for OS X that explains how to regain tabbed folders, boot in safe mode, add system sounds, and replace other features lost under OS X.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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