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Sweet Sixteen

NeXTSTEP 1.0 was released 18 September 1989, sixteen years ago today. Considered five years ahead of its time back then, it's still at least five years ahead of its time today sixteen years later.


NeXTSTEP is the object oriented multitasking operating system NeXT Computer developed to run on its NeXT computers. It was released on 18 September 1989 after several previews starting in 1986.

The last release was in early 1995, by which time it ran not only on the NeXT but also on x86, SPARC, and PA-RISC.

NeXT teamed up with Sun to develop OPENSTEP, a cross platform standard and implementation for Solaris, Windows, and the MACH kernel.

NeXTSTEP is a combination of the following.

  • BSD Unix and the MACH kernel.
  • The Objective-C language and runtime.
  • Display PostScript and a windowing engine.
  • An object oriented application layer (AppKit and Foundation).
  • Development tools (Interface Builder, Project Builder).

The toolkits offer incredible power and are used to build all the software in the system. The Objective-C language makes application development far easier than on other systems and the NeXTSTEP system has been pointed to as a paragon of development ever since.

In January 1997 Apple acquired NeXT and used the OPENSTEP standard as the basis for Apple's coming OS X. The NeXTSTEP heritage can be seen in the OS X Cocoa development environment: the framework classes, largely the inherited NeXTSTEP code, use 'NS' prefixes.

The first web browser, WorldWideWeb, was developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the NeXTSTEP platform. Tim called NeXTSTEP 'the first intuitive point-and-click and folders interface for personal computers'.

Features and even keyboard shortcuts now commonly found in most web browsers can be traced to originally being features of NeXTSTEP. Other browsers for other operating systems later implemented these as features of the browser itself. The basic layout options of HTML 1.0 and 2.0 are attributable to features available in the NeXTSTEP NSText class.

The game DOOM was also developed on NeXT machines, as was Macromedia Freehand (an interface for Mathematica) and the next generation spreadsheet program Lotus Improv.

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