Welcome to Macintosh

Reasons for Sticking with the Classic Mac OS

- 2007.10.30

Bong! . . . :-) . . . Welcome to Macintosh!

Last time, in Making the Case for a Truly Modern, Up-to-date Browser for Mac OS 9, I made a plea to OS 9 developers to help develop a modern browser for OS 9 to keep the Classic Mac OS viable into the future. I received a lot of positive emails from many of you - and one who didn't quite share the same sentiment. I thought I'd share those thoughts with you:

Not everyone agreed with my stance on making a case for OS 9 browsers. Here's one dissenting viewpoint from Howie:

I know this is 'Low End Mac' we're talking about, but OS 9???? It's 8 years old. I really think you guys need to get off the bandwagon of panning Leopard because it won't support older machines. The way I see it, users who avoid upgrading their hardware after 5 previous releases of OS X need to just shut up and deal with it. Otherwise, go buy a new machine and be happy with all of the great things in Leopard.

And a later follow-up email from Howie:

Just to give you some background on me . . . I've used Macs since 1986. When I first saw a NeXT workstation in about 1990 or so, I was very fascinated with it. When Mac OS X released for the first time, I was very happy to see that most of NeXTstep's features had been incorporated into OS X. I love old Macs, but only as something nostalgic. In fact, I have a 17-year-old Mac Classic that I play around with from time to time.

Here was my reply...

Hey Howie! How are you? Great I hope! Thanks for reading my article on OS 9! With all due respect, OS 9 is still very much alive within certain boundaries. Yes, it's dead to Apple, and it's 8 years old, but it still has life left in it as far as I and many others are concerned.

As far as LEM "panning" Leopard because it won't support older machines, there are some people who cannot or are unwilling to (which I fully understand) buy a new Mac every 2 to 3 years just to keep up with the times. There was a time where a Mac user was pretty much guaranteed 5 to 7 years of current main usage, because older Macs could run 1 or even 2 major upgrades of the Mac OS. Maybe it's the throw away society we live in today, but as old school as it sounds, I still feel people who buy computers should reasonably expect to have at least 5 years worth of support OS-wise.

It sounds very arrogant and elitist of you to say "shut up and deal with it." Say you saved up your money to buy a iMac, and in 2 or 3 years, you had to upgrade to the new Apple OS, but you find you can't because it's not supported. And say you didn't have the money to buy new or upgrade. How would you feel? Stop and think of how you'd feel.

Thank you for taking the time to email me, even though we don't necessarily agree. I enjoy healthy debate, and although I don't agree with your opinion, I respect it.

Here is an email from Scott in which he speaks of OS 9 as the "true" Mac OS:


I'm glad someone else on here thinks OS 9 is the "true" Mac OS.

When I first used OS X, I thought to myself, "This is no Mac, this is something completely different".

I still to this day do not like to put OS X in the same category as its predecessor. I consider my OS 9 and earlier Macs to be "real Macs", and the OS X ones to be "some new computer", especially the ones with Intel chips . . . I still believe this is like putting a Chevy engine into a Mercedes, and the same can be said about loading OS X - style over function is not good!


Amen Scott! My thoughts exactly! Although I do like OS X, I don't consider it the same at all as the "true" Mac OS! Thanks for the email! :-)

This email and great idea come from Dale:


Regarding your entry about the problem of Classic Mac OS browsers, there is a solution, albeit a challenging one. The source code for Mozilla is available for anyone to compile and deploy for themselves. Perhaps it's time for the readers and members of Low End Mac to take on the challenge and compile the code for Mac OS 9. Perhaps LEM could create a page to do this where the tools could be assembled. At least we could start a discussion on whether it is possible to do this. The source code for Mac OS 9 is available here: http://www.mozilla.org/releases/old-releases-1.1-1.4rc3.html

Mozilla 1.2.1 (Dec 2002) appears to be the latest source for Mac OS 9.x Any Takers?

Dale O'Gorman

Along with a follow-up email:

Hi Tommy,

Thanks for replying to my mail. I've done a little bit more research and have found that Apple appear to supply toolsets for the job for free: http://developer.apple.com/tools/mpw-tools/ I don't propose to try to detract from the great work that the guys at iCab are doing, but choice is always a good thing. By the way, I visit Low End Mac almost every day and read your articles whenever there are new ones. Great Stuff and keep up the good work.

Dale O'Gorman

Thanks Dale for a great idea and for the kind words! :-)

Here's an email from Martin in which he tells of his reasons for not switching to OS X:

Well put Thomas!

Really enjoyed reading this! I'm a graphic and architectural designer still plugging away in Mac OS 9.2.2 on my 7-year-old Sawtooth G4 (and still driving my 20-year-old Suzuki Samurai, cuz I can't find anything else on the street that will do all the same tricks at the same price).

My major reasons for not having switched are:

Cost. Not the cost of hardware, or even of the OS - the cost of upgrading my vast suite of apps, some of which have no OS X analogs. Frankly, it's been a hamster wheel of upgrading since I purchased my first Mac SE (running System 6 - man that was fast). No sooner had I paid for new hardware and a new OS would come along, or the next version of XPress or Photoshop or Freehand. I've been pouring money into my systems for two decades, and I'm tired of it.

Fear. I spent years getting to know my system and files and hundreds of quirks and idiosyncrasies. Everything works just fine as it is; I've leaned and trimmed my software and files and methods to a fine point and really don't feel like going back to grade 1 on a new OS. I might add that I run a profitable business with my existing system; the only thing really showing its age is my browser; I use IE 5 because I like the interface and bookmarking simplicity. I have to use Mozilla whenever I need to do anything online involving logging on or secure sites, and so far have managed. Barely. It's a blessing that I can't view any of the clips people are constantly sending me (YouTube, UEBA, etc.), as I'd probably waste hours if I could view them!

Apathy. Well-meaning friends have been pushing me hard to upgrade to OS X with cult-like enthusiasm (take the pill, take the pill, I took it and I'm fine, you should too), but watching them demonstrate OS X and it's Windows-like Directory layout (yes I know its Unix), and the bewildering heaps of enigmatic files with Klingon filenames, I have to say I'm largely underwhelmed by it all. I actually like the classic OS interface a lot! I like being able to see what a file is, where it is, and what it does (for the most part). When I really feel the need to scare myself, I can browse the invisible files to see what has accumulated on my hard drive. But having been bred on 40 MB hard drives, I still periodically go through my files and turf (or archive) anything I think is "wasting space", even though a have dozens of GBs to spare.

I know I sound like Grandpa Walton, but I don't see why the advent of some new improved OS should mean discarding/abandoning older systems and especially applications that work just fine! I've seen too many good applications (and their parent firms) dry up over the years (such as UpFront and ClarisCAD), never to be replaced. When I see someone driving a nicely restored Chevy BelAir, it makes me feel good, and I feel great respect for the owner, even if I've never felt the urge to drive an old classic myself.

Personally, I think that most software seems to go through a Sweet Spot in its development, where its balance of features/footprint/cost/ease of use are nicely balanced. Some apps which come to mind are Freehand 3 thru 7, Photoshop 5.5, Word 4 (which fit on a floppy and I still run on my PowerBook 145), Eudora 3 - 5.2, MiniCad 4-5 (Vectorworks is now almost as awkward to use as AutoCAD), Acrobat 4. At some point they start loading any successful app down with extras until it no longer gets off the runway, let alone flying rings, and then it loses the fun. I'm seeing the same de-evolutionary process happening with Palm Pilots, as they pile on features, cost, and complexity.

The only pinch I'm feeling, in fact, is the lack of a decent browser, and your comments about iCab have left me wondering how I could have overlooked it! I'm going to check into this tonight - maybe I can install one more thing on my Mac-frozen-in-time G4 :)

Thanks again for your intelligent and helpful article keep it up!

Here's a follow-up email from him and my response to that email:

Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to email me! Of course you may quote me freely (and edit as you see fit - I'm often less than concise).

Do you recall how promptly someone came up with a "fix" for Sherlock when Apple came out with that brushed-stainless version with no Windowshade option? What a relief that hack was!

I'd been hoping that someone would come out with a "shell" for OS X which would restore our familiar classic GUI, but I assume that the technical/structural challenges are too numerous to overcome or someone would have done it by now. I'll bet a pricey Starbucks coffee that it would be hugely popular, if available! But the underlying architecture would still be occult to me....

On a more fundamental level, I would like to see the option of emulating all the older Systems, back to System 6, for anyone who so wishes. I went through the exercise a few years ago, of wiping my ancient but cherished SE/30 clean and reinstalling "the works", all in System 6 - everything I could get my hands on, System, apps, browser, utilities. It took weeks of tweaking to get everything to work properly and "tune" the setup, but even fully loaded down with extras and goodies, this machine starts up instantly and feels rock solid (except for Internet access). But the exercise reminded me of how enchanting personal computing was in its infancy.

Like everyone else, I was so happy to see the back of that horrible correction tape and Liquid Paper, and all the other trappings of typewriter technology. I loved the WYSIWYG Mac screen, being able to freely edit, copy, paste, swap fonts, insert graphics, and all that word processing is how PCs charmed their way into our lives (and Macs were the best by far), and we were all very grateful, paying four grand for a 22 lb. Mac Plus and being happy about it!

But when I consider how much time, expense, and frustration I've put into tending my machines over the last 20 years, it was a commitment on a level similar to raising a child - emotionally and financially. These machines were supposed to "free up" our time (oh yeah, and we'd use much less paper too). But like having 100 channels available on TV, the reality never matched the utopian vision Clarke, Asimov, and others rhapsodized on in the '40s. Talk about Future Shock!

I no longer spend hours editing programs like I did for my Apple II or Atari 800, although I spend far too much time building custom maps for my Zire to take on hikes. Like most people my age, my life straddles the old and new technologies: I learned my layout, paste-up, drafting, and commercial art skills before computers were in use, and so I can mentally compare the two. And like many others, I've gone back to manual drafting, using a pencil and drafting board, because I can produce a one-off custom house design faster that way than using CAD - and because I find it more satisfying, more of a craft: I take more pride and care in my handiwork. Which is why I sold my digital camera and went back to using film in a manual SLR (had to start from scratch, cuz I'd sold all my old gear when I went digital!).

We really have to stop and examine whether technological advancements represent progress; it's apparent to me that they're not the same thing at all. I'm grateful for having grown up overseas in the 60s without access to television or slick toys; because I had so much more fun than my peers at home in Canada, making my own entertainment, reading anything I could lay my hands on (my dad had subscriptions to Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, National Geographic, etc.). I built my own fireworks, go-cart, a robot-like hand which could be mechanically 'programmed', shotgun mic, and dozens of other projects which were far more fun than any store-bought toy would have been. There's no way I can convey this to today's typical kid, nor even interest him in it. One of the few rays of hope I see is the popularity of sites such as Hackaday and Make, where bright kids (of all ages) are breaking out of the box and creating New Stuff, sometimes from scratch! Good on them!

I'm determined to keep looking for rays of hope, to try to be part of what is positive and constructive in the world, and support like thinking, which is why I wrote to thank you for your positive, well-written, and informative article! Just getting Mac users to take a closer look at what they're given to work with, is a Good Thing and will get some of them thinking!

Forgive my lengthy soapbox tirade, but I seldom get the chance to air such unpopular views . . . a voice in the wilderness! It is however, gratifying to see that Mr. Thomas is also paying attention, and he is doing something positive, by spreading the word, by making people think. I look forward to reading your future articles (I visit LEM fairly often, and will keep an eye out for your words.) Feel free to plagiarize anything you like from my wordy email!

Martin Perras
Victoria, BC, Canada

Hey there again Martin! I have to say, I read your email in awe, literally. I guess I'm not the only one who thinks older technologies and the good ol' days are really better. Everything in the computer industry now tries to be flashy and look good, rather than focusing on what made them such a popular idea to begin with . . . simplifying our lives.

All one has to do is boot up a classic Mac. Everything was well laid out from a human standpoint. From the chime or bong, to the Happy Mac, to the layout of the menus, trash can on the bottom right hand corner. It really was like sitting at a desk. If you'll notice in the title of my column and at the very beginning of each article, I pay tribute to the "real" Mac OS. To give you an example of the beginning of each of my articles: Bong stands for the chime or chord sound the old Macs made, :-) stands for the Happy Mac, and "Welcome to Macintosh" (as well as in the column name) stands for the message that came up right after the Happy Mac. Although I strayed for a little while from writing articles about the Classic Mac OS, I have since returned to my roots determined to keep the flame of OS 9 and earlier Mac OSes alive! :-D

Thanks again Martin! :-)

Yet another plea for a modern OS 9 browser from Brett, who is part of a family where each member has a WallStreet:


As a member of a family who owns (and loves) our six WallStreets, I am delighted to read your article "Making the case for a truly modern browser for OS 9". When we bought these machines, we were in the process of converting our modest LocalTalk network into wireless ethernet with DSL. Yet we still had an old LocalTalk LaserJet that we hoped to keep. Upgrading our 3400s to WallStreets made the transition possible and came with the promise of dual booting to OS X for the inevitable time when OS 9 browsers were nonfunctional.

Since delving into the cold, strange realm of OS X, and having endured its "permissions" nonsense, RAM hogging, and annoyingly version-specific software requirements, we've returned to OS 9. It is, as you point out, a superior system in many ways, and not just because we're making due with old hardware (or because we ourselves are too old to learn new tricks).

I, for one, feel that I've given OS X a fair shot. The eye candy is very alluring, I'll give it that. And its stability and application-switching are welcome treats. The Dock is addictive too. But truly, there is no smiley Mac to greet us at startup and no trademark Mac friendliness to make system organization fun (not to mention possible!).

Now if only there were a modern browser for OS 9! Then we'd dance! Hell, we'd even pay money for such a product! Feel free to pass that tidbit along in your message to developers, in case they think we're expecting their services for free. We'll pay!

We die-hard OS 9ers may be a really small market at this point, but I suspect we're united in our earnest desire for a decent browser. As you rightly pointed out, it's really the only app we desperately need.

Besides, who knows how many of our classic guild have gone to OS X merely because of browser problems? I did!

I realize that Apple and developers want us to move on and not be content with our old stuff. But like you, I'm hoping that someone will hear your plea and respond. Thank you for representing us so well and making our cries known!!

Brett Clemons

P.S. I'm currently using WaMCom, which is essentially Mozilla 1.3.1. (Download WaMCom here.) It's the best I've found for 9, but still doesn't have full functionality, especially with some JavaScripts. I hate to say it, but the best browser I've ever used was Anderson Che's Avant Browser for PC. The version I had on my ThinkPad (8.0) is now quite old, as was the IE 5.5 that it used as its core, but I tell you what: it was extremely versatile and customizable. Even 7 years ago, it had features that are only now becoming available in other browsers. I only wish Mr. Che would write for Mac!

Here's an email from Tony, who uses iCab, Opera, and WannaBe:

Thank you for writing the OS 9 browser development plea. I have a 1998 Lombard and a 2000 iMac, both running 9.2 and my only (dear) wish is that someone gives us just one more browser update before I have to upgrade my hardware and software. I use iCab and Opera for different sites, and WannaBe occasionally (cause it's cool!). My hardware is in great shape and working flawlessly with my OS and apps. I hope some programmer reads your article and steps up to the plate. I'd gladly pay a bit more for that app. I'm sure there are many many more who feel the same.

Best regards,

An email from Jonnie who is a special education teacher:

Hi Tommy,

I agree with your opinion in "Making the Case for a Truly Modern, Up-to-date Browser for Mac OS 9". I have a bunch of CRT iMacs I use at school in my special education classroom, and I have been using iCab. I also wish developers would do more for OS 9.

Have you seen the TV commercials for the Jitterbug cell phone? It's geared for the Baby Boomer and older customers who want an easy to use cell phone. They want a cell phone without a camera, Internet, text messaging, etc. They want a cell phone with large buttons that are easy to use. I see OS 9 like that.

Some people want a simple, easy to use, basic computer that is not a PC. In fact, I bet unused, in storage, older Apple computers would be very happy living in retirement and/or nursing homes.

Let our 89-year-olds use them to play solitaire, write a letter to print and mail or e-mail to someone. They can download Apple iTunes 2.0.4 and listen to Glen Miller on their stereo headphones.

The point is, OS 8 or 9 is simple and easy to use, and that's all some people need or want.

So, developers, put some things together for people age 0 to 12-years-old and 55 to 100-years-old.


Thank you to all those who emailed me with your thoughts! Drop me a line anytime at thomas(at)lowendmac(dot)com!

What drew you to the Classic Mac OS? What do you use your Classic Macs for? Email me your stories.

Come back tomorrow for a special Halloween edition of Welcome to Macintosh! :-) LEM

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