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Mac OS 8.1

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Title: Mac OS 8.1  
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Mac OS 8.1

Mac OS 8
Part of the Classic Mac OS family
Screenshot of Mac OS 8.1
Apple Computer
Website N/A
Initial release July 26, 1997 [release 8.6 (May 10, 1999; 15 years ago (1999-05-10)) [info]
Source model Closed source
License Proprietary
Kernel type Monolithic for 68k, nanokernel for PowerPC
Preceded by System 7
Succeeded by Mac OS 9
Support status

Mac OS 8 is an operating system that was released by Apple Computer on July 26, 1997. It represented the largest overhaul of the Mac OS since the release of System 7, some six years previously. It puts more emphasis on color than previous operating systems. Released over a series of updates, Mac OS 8 was an effort to integrate many of the technologies developed for Apple's overly-ambitious operating system known as Copland. Mac OS 8 helped modernize the Mac OS while Apple developed its next generation operating system, OS X. Mac OS 8 is one of Apple's most successful software releases, selling over 1.2 million copies in the first two weeks.[1][2] Coming as it did at a difficult time in Apple's history, many pirate groups refused to traffic in the new operating system, encouraging people to buy it instead.[3]

Mac OS 8.0 brought about the most significant changes in the line-up, including the introduction of the Platinum interface and a native PowerPC multi-threaded Finder. Mac OS 8.1 introduced a new, more efficient file system known as HFS Plus. Mac OS 8.5 was the first version of the Mac OS to require a PowerPC processor. It featured PowerPC native versions of QuickDraw and AppleScript, along with the Sherlock search utility. Its successor, Mac OS 9, was released on October 23, 1999.


Apple's next generation operating system, which it originally envisioned as "Mac OS 8" was codenamed Copland. It was announced in March 1994 alongside the introduction of the first PowerPC Macs. Apple intended Copland as a completely native PowerPC operating system offering intelligent agents, a microkernel, a customizable interface known as Appearance Manager, hardware abstraction, and a relational database integrated into the Finder. Copland was to be followed by Gershwin, which promised protected memory spaces and full preemptive multitasking.[4] The operating system was intended to be a complete re-write of the Mac OS, and Apple hoped to beat Microsoft Windows 95 to market with a development cycle of just one year.

The Copland development was hampered by countless missed deadlines. The release date was first pushed back to the end of 1995, then to mid-'96, late '96, and finally to the end of 1997. With a dedicated team of 500 software engineers and an annual budget of $250 million, Apple executives began to grow impatient with the project continually falling behind schedule. At the Worldwide Developers Conference in January 1997, Apple CEO Gil Amelio announced that rather than release Copland as a single monolithic release, Copland features would be phased into the Mac OS following a six month release cycle. These updates began with Mac OS 7.6, released during WWDC. Mac OS 8.0, released six months later, continued to integrate Copland technologies into the Mac OS.

In August 1996, Apple Chief Technology Officer, Ellen Hancock, froze development of Copland[5] and Apple began a search for an operating system developed outside the company.[4] This ultimately led to Apple's purchase of NeXT and the development of OS X.

Mac OS 8.0

Developed under the codename "Tempo", Mac OS 8.0 was released on July 26, 1997. Initially, the early beta releases of the product which were circulated to developers and Apple internal audiences, were branded as Mac OS 7.7 (superseding the then-current release, Mac OS 7.6). Afterwards, the software was later renamed to Mac OS 8 before the final release.

Major improvements in this version included the Platinum theme, a Finder which was PowerPC native and multi-threaded, and greater customization of the user interface.

Other features introduced in Mac OS 8.0 include the following:[6]

  • Customization of system fonts and accent colors.
  • Contextual pop-up menus. (accessed via ctrl-click with a single-button mouse)
  • Pop-up (or tabbed) windows in the Finder.
  • Spring-loaded folders.
  • Live scrolling.
  • WindowShade widget in window titlebars.
  • Multithreaded Finder — file copy operations run in a separate thread and don't block the Finder UI.
  • Revamped color picker.
  • Desktop Pictures control panel, allowing photographs to be set as the desktop background. (not just tiled patterns)
  • Simple Finder, an option which reduces Finder menus to basic operations, in order to avoid overwhelming new users.
  • Relocation of the 'Help' menu from an icon at the right end of the menu bar to a standard textual menu positioned after the application's menus.
  • A faster Apple Guide, featuring HTML help pages.
  • Native support of AFP over IP.
  • Performance improvements to virtual memory, AppleScript execution and system startup times.
  • Faster desktop rebuilding.

Mac OS 8.1

Released on January 19, 1998, Mac OS 8.1 was the last version of the Mac OS to run on 68k processors. It addressed performance and reliability improvements. It introduced a new file system known as HFS+, (aka Mac OS Extended,) which supported large file sizes and made more efficient use of larger hard drives due to using a smaller block size. To upgrade, users must reformat the hard drive, which deletes the entire contents of the drive. Some third-party utilities later appeared that preserved the user's data while upgrading to HFS+. Note that 68040 systems do not support booting from HFS+ disks; the boot drive must be HFS.

Mac OS 8.1 was the first system to have a DVD universal data format and also shipped with the new Java runtime (JDK 1.13).

Mac OS 8.1 also included an enhanced version of PC Exchange, allowing Macintosh users to see the long file names (up to 255 characters) on files that had been created on PCs running Microsoft Windows, as well as supporting FAT32.

Mac OS 8.1 is the earliest version of the Mac OS that can run Carbon applications. Carbon support requires a PowerPC processor and installation of the CarbonLib software from Apple's web site; it is not a standard component of Mac OS 8.1. More recent versions of CarbonLib require Mac OS 8.6. Applications requiring later versions of CarbonLib will not run on Mac OS 8.1.

As part of Apple's agreement with Microsoft (see Internet Explorer for Mac), 8.1 included Internet Explorer 3 initially, but soon switched to Internet Explorer 4 as its default browser.

Mac OS 8.1 was free for Mac OS 8 owners and was available in February 1998 via the website.

Mac OS 8.5

Released October 17, 1998, Mac OS 8.5 was the first version of the Mac OS to run solely on Macs equipped with a PowerPC processor. If you try to install Mac OS 8.5 on a 68k Mac, the Sad Mac error screen will appear. As such, it replaced some but not all of the 680x0 code with PowerPC code, improving system performance by relying less on 680x0 emulation.

It introduced the Sherlock search utility; Sherlock allowed users to search the contents of documents on hard drives (if the user had let it index the drive), or extend a search to the Internet. Sherlock plug-ins started appearing at this time; these plug-ins allowed users to search the contents of other websites.

Mac OS 8.5 included a number of performance improvements. Copying files over a network was faster than previous versions and Apple advertised it as being "faster than Windows NT".[7] AppleScript was also re-written to use only PowerPC code, which significantly improved AppleScript execution speed.

Font Smoothing, system-wide antialiasing for type was also introduced.

The HTML format for online help, first adopted by the Finder's Info Center in Mac OS 8, was now used throughout. This made it easier for software companies to write online help systems, but would contribute to making physical manuals become a thing of the past.

In this release, the PPP control panel was removed and replaced with Remote Access. The Remote Access control panel provides the same functionality but also allows connections to Apple Remote Access (ARA) servers.

The installation process was considerably simplified in Mac OS 8.5. In earlier versions the installer worked in segments and often required the user to click to continue in between stages of the installation. The Mac OS 8.5 installer generally required very little user interaction once it was started. Customisation options were also much more detailed yet simpler to manage.

From Mac OS 8.5 onwards, MacLinkPlus document translation software is no longer bundled as part of the Mac OS.

Mac OS 8.5 was the first version of the Mac OS to support "themes," or skins, which could change the default Apple Platinum look of the Mac OS to "Gizmo" or "HiTech" themes. This radical changing of the computer's appearance was removed at the last minute, and appeared only in beta versions, though users could still make (and share) their own themes and use them with the OS. The Appearance control panel was also updated to enable support for proportional scroll bars, and added the option for both scroll arrows to be placed at the bottom of the scroll bar.

In addition to the themes support, 8.5 was the first version to support 32-bit icons. Icons now had 24-bit color (16.7 million colors) and an 8-bit alpha channel, allowing for transparency/translucency effects.

The 'application palette' made its debut with 8.5 — the application menu at the right side of the menu bar could be resized to show the active application's name, or 'torn off' into a palette of buttons. This palette could be customized many ways, by removing the window frame and changing the size and layout of the buttons. Apple did not provide a user interface for setting these options, instead making them available via AppleScript and Apple Events, relying on third parties to provide a user interface for the task. By setting it to display horizontally and turning off the window border the pallette could be configured to look and function much like the Windows 95 task bar.

Mac OS 8.5.1

Mac OS 8.5.1, released December 7, 1998, was a minor update to Mac OS 8.5 that fixed a number of bugs that were causing crashes and data corruption.

Mac OS 8.6

Released May 10, 1999, Mac OS 8.6 added support to the Mac OS nanokernel to handle preemptive tasks via the Multiprocessing Services 2.x and later developer API. This free update for Mac users running 8.5 and 8.5.1 was faster and much more stable than either versions of 8.5.x and was also the first Mac OS to have the OS version displayed as part of the startup screen. However, there was still no process separation; the system still used cooperative multitasking between processes, and even a process that was Multiprocessing Services-aware still had a portion that ran in the blue task, a task that also ran all programs that are not aware of it, and the only task that could run 68k code.

Versions of Mac OS 8

Version Release Date Changes Computer Codename Price
8.0 July 26, 1997 Initial release Power Macintosh G3 Tempo 99 USD
8.1 January 19, 1998


HFS+ file system iMac (Bondi Blue) Bride of Buster Free Update
8.5 October 17, 1998 PowerPC required, Sherlock, Themes, 32 bit icons Allegro 99 USD
8.5.1 December 7, 1998


Crash, memory leaks and data corruption fixes iMac (5 flavors) The Ric Ford Release Free Update
8.6 May 10, 1999


New nanokernel to support Multiprocessing Services 2.0 iBook Veronica


Macintosh Model 8.0[8] 8.1[8] 8.5[8] 8.6[8]
Centris/Quadra 600 series Yes No
Quadra 700/800/900 series
Macintosh LC 475
Macintosh LC 575
Macintosh LC 580
Power Macintosh 6100 Yes
Power Macintosh 7100
Power Macintosh 8100
PowerBook 190 No
PowerBook 520
PowerBook 540
PowerBook Duo 2300 Yes
PowerBook 5300
PowerBook 1400
PowerBook 2400
PowerBook 3400
Power Macintosh 5200
Power Macintosh 5300
Power Macintosh 5400
Power Macintosh 5500
Power Macintosh 4400
Power Macintosh 6200
Power Macintosh 6300
Power Macintosh 6400
Power Macintosh 6500
Power Macintosh 7200
Power Macintosh 7300
Power Macintosh 7500
Power Macintosh 8500
Power Macintosh 7600
Power Macintosh 8600
Power Macintosh 9600
Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh
Power Macintosh G3 All-In-One
Power Macintosh G3 Yes: Machine-specific version only Yes Yes
Power Macintosh G3 Blue and White No No Yes: Machine-specific version only
iMac G3 Yes: Machine-specific version only Yes
iMac G3 (266 MHz, 333 MHz) No
iMac G3 (Slot Loading) No Yes: Machine-specific version only
Power Macintosh G4 (PCI Graphics)
Power Macintosh G4 (AGP Graphics)
PowerBook G3 Yes
PowerBook G3 Series
iBook No Yes: Machine-specific version only


External links

  • Technical Note TN1102 Mac OS 8 Developer Information from Apple
  • Technical Note TN1121 Mac OS 8.1 Developer Information from Apple
  • Technical Note TN1142 Mac OS 8.5 Developer Information from Apple
  • Technical Note TN1163 Mac OS 8.6 Developer Information from Apple
  • Mac OS 8 Hardware Compatibility
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