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Counting Down To The Day When Apple Kills 'Classic'

Counting Down To The Day When Apple Kills 'Classic'

by , 8:00 AM EDT, October 3rd, 2001

Of all the sentimental errors which reign and rage in this incomparable republic, the worst, I often suspect, is that which confuses the functions of criticism, whether aesthetic, political or social, with the function of reform.... Such men are never popular. The way to please is to proclaim in a confident manner. This is what is called building up. This is constructive criticism.

H. L. Mencken, Prejudices

You're always wrong! You said that "Krush Groove" was gonna be a hit!

Ben Affleck, "Dogma"

If you are like me and the thousands of lucky people who've already gotten the OS X 10.1 upgrade installed onto their happy Macs, then you will understand me when I say that I am currently in computing beatitude.

As I peck away at my keyboard to bring you these feeble musings, I am using Word: Mac 2001 to craft my thoughts. Word is running in OS X's "Classic" compatibility mode, which allows me to run OS 9 apps without leaving the psychologically and aesthetically pleasing Aqua environment. To be honest, most of my work can only be done in Classic: Dreamweaver, Word, Excel, Entourage, Photoshop, SoundJam (iTunes can't convert MP3s to AIFF so I can burn audio CDs for easy listening in my truck -- note: a reader just told me that it can. Good!), Final Cut Pro, Quark Xpress and Unreal Tournament.

While running these Classic apps, I had a stray thought: what if Apple pulls the plug on Classic, leaving us with nothing but OS X to run our software? Would Apple do such a thing? Should Apple do such a thing?

There are many reasons why Apple should kill Classic, as well as an equal number of reasons why it should stay a main feature of OS X. Both arguments can be summed up with the following.

Kill Classic, because getting rid of it right now would force developers to write for OS X. Many developers are either dragging their feet or are silently protesting OS X. There are people in the developer community who see OS X as a step backwards from the Macintosh experience that we know and love. How soon do we forget that it wasn't just Apple alumni Jef Raskin and Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini who were poo-pooing OS X when it first reared its Aqua head, but many of us stepped out of the woodwork to give our thumbs down -- and I'm sure that some of those comments, private or public, came from Mac developers. Can we safely say that all of those people have "seen the light," even if they and their companies have ostensibly pinched their noses and carrried on with OS X development? Maybe something as drastic as killing Classic would bring them over. Grow or go, I always say.

Don't kill Classic, because getting rid of it right now would kill Apple. Killing Classic on Oct. 3 would be the dumbest move Apple ever made (okay, okay, the "hockey-puck" mouse rates a little bit higher). Where's the OS X software, after all? 'Nuff said.

But the death of Classic can only happen at a certain point in time. When is that certain point in time? I don't know. But I do know that even when apps like Microsoft Office and the Adobe family of products hit the shelves in all their Aquafied glory, we still will only be approaching the halfway mark at best ("midnight," in Steve's parlance), in terms of having a full complement of basic software that won't need Classic to run.

Currently, Apple says that the OS X transition is right on schedule, but aren't they supposed to say that? We don't expect Apple reps to whine publicly about what is really happening. I'd like to know the story behind the headline. Meanwhile, people like me are using Classic to get work done, while people like some of my friends can truthfully say that they never launch Classic. I imagine that for most of us, my friends and I exist on the extremes of a continuum while your Classic usage exists in those gray areas in between my total dependence on Classic and my friends' freedom from legacy-coded apps.

My two arguments above look at Classic's place in the scheme of things Mac OS X. Those arguments are from emotional foundations. But, in truth, there are two other ways to look at this, both from more logical premises.

Apple could position Classic as a permanent feature of OS X, always providing support for applications much older than the Carbonized versions upon which the success of OS X depends. This provides a good selling point for those people who will still be clinging to their Quadra's and LC's even in the future. In one way, it will make Apple look really good if the company vows to continue making the transition to OS X a smooth, seamless and painless one. This would undoubtedly necessitate more tweaks and updates to OS 9 beyond the current 9.2.1 version. (Sidenote: This reminds me of college calculus in which we studied the definition of integrals by looking at the concept of decresing a decimal number by fractional increments. Our totals approached infinity with the increments, however, never getting a difference that reached zero. Extrapolating, Apple could make 9.x updates forever without reaching 10.0. I have no idea what this has to do with OS X and Classic. But, I digress... big time.)

The bottom line is that if Apple keeps Classic, then they will have to continue developing for and improving upon Classic, for when OS X changes drastically, so will Classic have to. Furthermore, if Classic stays around, this will leave the temptation for developers to continue tweaking and upgrading the Classic versions of their software. This would prevent total transition to OS X.

Classic will have to go the way of the dodo sooner or later. The rumors of Classic's immortality have been greatly exaggerated. In the scheme of things, Classic is only a set of training wheels for the Mac-using masses. Per my above comment, to allow Classic to exist would be to leave an incentive for developers to merely tweak their Classic apps and drag their feet deeper on their OS X implementations. So, go it must.

I could be making much ado about nothing, but it is worth considering. Unlike my friends, I can't stay out of Classic. There are instances where I have both a Classic version and an OS X version of an application, and when pressed, I will launched the Classic version. Why? Oh, many reasons. For example, iTunes for OS X crashes on me (many times, when I shut down or restart OS X, iTunes launches. Go figure). So, it's easier for me to launch the Classic version, but then, my music jumps, skips and pauses whenever I do something as simple as move my cursor over the Dock. (It's ironic that I chose an Apple app as reason for not switching totally to OS X. Another digression...)

My best suggestion is this: live as though Classic is living on borrowed time. This translates into 1) start using available beta OS X versions of your favorite apps 2) look for OS X substitutes for your favorite apps 3) learn to live without your favorite apps and features. 3) is hard to do, and I hope will prove to be unnecessary. Nevertheless, X is the future of the Mac platform, and the future is now.

OS X 10.1 is proof that we should start making some closure to our love affairs with Classic and all that it entails. We used to laugh at the belief that Windows was good enough for the average person to use. Today, we are entering a similar phase with OS X. It's good enough. And the training wheels will be falling off soon.

Rodney O. Lain has bad luck. It seems that everything he does in Classic just so happens to be those things that a) slows down everything else b) crashes everything else or c) both a) and b). When he isn't testing the limits of his Classic environment, he is a regular contributor to The Mac Observer with his "iBrotha" column, as well as the occasional editorial.

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