Mac Lab Report

Macintel Stumbling Block: Sometimes You Need Classic

- 2006.01.25

Apple has no Classic support in its new Intel-based Macs, and from what I read Apple has no plans add it. This means that for the first time, there is no compatibility path for older, pre-PowerPC, or even pre-OS X software to run on an Apple computer.

The problem is, there are any number of critical applications that people use that require OS 9 or Classic Mode, and while we've been content with booting up Classic to make them work, we don't even have that option with Intel Macs.

I haven't seen too much complaining from the LEM staff, and I kind of expected it.

For my part, there are still a few Classic programs I need to run that require OS 9, so I guess I'll put off upgrading for the time being. It's not just a matter of upgrading or picking another vendor; these functions run only in OS 9.

First, there's a delightful little acrostic generator called Anacrostics, which hasn't even had so much as a web page update in years. I love this little program and wish I could find something equivalent that runs in OS X. It barely runs in Classic, exhibiting some wierd flashing bugs that don't interfere with its operation. This is better than a crossword, because the solution spells out a message sort of like Wheel of Fortune style - which I used to define yet another task for my students to do.

Secondly, we use SASI in our school attendance system. During a recent upgrade the district shut down the AppleTalk-compatible server and moved everything over to a Windows 2000 server with Mac services enabled for OS 9 - but not for OS X. Apparently their version of the Microsoft UAM tool isn't the same one posted on Microsoft's website, because I have to log into the network using the Chooser in Classic - then I can run the software natively in OS X.

However, OS X's Browse function and login screen are incompatible, even after installing the Windows 2000 server client for OS X from Microsoft. I think this is a server-side issue; a tech told me they hadn't set up the server for OS X, as I may be just about the only one using it for standard access to the server. The district is "retiring" Macs by replacing them with Dells as they become obsolete, But I still need Classic for SASI.

Finally, my gradebook program, Grade Machine, runs in OS 9 only; an OS X version exists, but I haven't upgraded yet. Buying a new Mac would require my upgrading this program, whether I wanted to or not. I suppose that's the nature of all upgrades.

What mission-critical functions do you have that still use OS 9 or Classic? Or have you given up Classic altogether? Drop me a note and let me know.

In the meantime, I sure hope Apple reconsiders the anti-Classic option, because I bet I'm not the only one in this position.

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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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