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Remembered, NeXT
May 3, 2013 1:28 PM   Subscribe

As the roots of Apple's OS X, NeXT is fairly well known. Have you actually seen one, though?
posted by gilrain (116 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Makes me wanna buy one on ebay and stick a Raspberry Pi in it (ha ha)!
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:33 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Have you actually seen one, though?

Yes. And a Machine running BeOS, either at an Amiga or Mac expo in the days before OS X.

/pours out 40 for the fallen operating systems.
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on May 3, 2013 [41 favorites]


I had a NeXT Cube for awhile and it was quite awesome. Ended up trading it to someone for an SGI Indy (complete with monitor).
posted by jquinby at 1:34 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I ran BeOS once.

Once.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:35 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I owned one! It sat unused in a corner until I sold it to a collector.
posted by boo_radley at 1:35 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have seen one burning.
posted by thelonius at 1:35 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes.

Back In The Day (i.e. 93/94) when we were cobbling together our first web pages with string, putty, and Lynx, the only way we could see any images we added was to ask permission to use the one NeXT machine to look at what we had built. We had to ask as the few of us who were trying to do such things were not CS students and didn't have official permission to use the fancy machines.

*waves cane*
posted by feckless at 1:38 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


huh. Well, OK: raise your hand if you haven't seen or owned one.
posted by boo_radley at 1:39 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure how many of those they sold, but we had a lab full of them at university. I still nostalgically think of them as having the best OS ever.
posted by stp123 at 1:39 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the computer labs at the University of Illinois had a few back in the early 90s. Visually, they struck me as Jobs' gambit at making a computer that was just as visually iconic as the original Macintosh while being completely different. Also completely out of most students' budgets to own personally, of course.

Also, per feckless' comment, the first web browser, written on and for the NeXT.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:40 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sure. One of the other engineering undergrad depts had a lab full of them. Us poor computer engineers got Sun workstations instead. I had to take a CS course to use the SGI indigo though.
posted by GuyZero at 1:41 PM on May 3, 2013


I never used BeOS, but I've always loved the look of the interface.
posted by 4ster at 1:41 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


/pours out 40 for the fallen operating systems.

40? Twice as long as it needs to be:

10 PRINT "SEE YOU AT THE CROSSROADS, HOMIE"
20 GOTO 10
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:42 PM on May 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's lesser-known but also really interesting that Doom was developed on NeXT, and the level editor was written in Objective C.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:44 PM on May 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


In college I worked in a computer lab that used to be a NeXT lab, but had transitioned over to SGIs. They had one NeXT cube left sitting around under a desk for some reason and I loved to look it over. One night I was talking about it with this one annoying full-of-himself guy and mentioned that the cases were made out of magnesium. He immediately snapped "no they're not!" and said they'd instantly burst into flames at the slightest provocation if they were. It's too bad I didn't know about the burn the NeXT Cube page so I could stick it in his face. Somehow I'm still resentful about that exchange.
posted by zsazsa at 1:44 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Halloween Jack: "40? Twice as long as it needs to be:"

Shouldn't BASIC programs always end with the END command? Which brings you up to line 30.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:46 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


40? Twice as long as it needs to be:

REM statements.
posted by Artw at 1:46 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My sister in law worked for NEXT and thought Jobs wad kind of a jerk.

A friend of a friend had one at UCD. I thought it was pretty cool but was seriously confused about why a anybody would spend that much on a computer when it was so cheap to put together a Linux box.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:47 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Haven't personally seen or owned one and never even heard of any person or office owning one (starting back in 1989 when I traveled professionally a lot). I only saw a brief showpiece glimpse of it on NBC Nightly News around 1988 and the occasional mention in old computer magazines. Most high speed machines I saw were Amigas and SGIs, and souped up Intels.
posted by crapmatic at 1:48 PM on May 3, 2013


Objective C

Well, let's not say the OS was without its downsides.
posted by Artw at 1:48 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


There was a headless one in the racks in the test lab in the place I worked in the late nineties through the mid-aughts. They still supported it for one of the products and kept it around to test patches. For some reason, I still remember that its hostname was "tesseract."
posted by octothorpe at 1:49 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I drove from Oakland to San Jose, I'd cruise by their offices to go from 80 to 680.

I guess I should have gone in.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:54 PM on May 3, 2013


I worked on the development tools for the DSP56001, which was used for audio in the NeXT Cube. We had a couple of them in the lab. At the time, it was the perfect mix of Unix power underneath and an easy to use GUI on top.
posted by incster at 1:55 PM on May 3, 2013


NeXT. . . Have you actually seen one, though?

I saw a whole room full of 'em in 1988 or '9. University of Michigan was evaluating them for use as lab workstations. I think they were only available for evaluation and only at universities and such at that point.

I remember thinking: "Looks cute -- but six minutes to boot?"
 
posted by Herodios at 1:56 PM on May 3, 2013


We used to have a closet full of them back when I started working at the University here in 1998. I never actually saw one in action. But I've seen plenty of hardware.
posted by mrzer0 at 1:56 PM on May 3, 2013


Heh, I did contract NeXTstep development for a number of years.

six minutes to boot

The magneto-optical drive was pretty neat but really, really slow if it was your only disk (swapping to the MO was ... painful).
posted by hattifattener at 2:00 PM on May 3, 2013


I've always been a fan of Window Maker, a copy of the NextOS GUI for Linux. Interestingly, in grabbing the link for the Wikipedia page for it, I see that there's actually a new version of Window Maker, the first update in seven years. I might have to try it out again.
posted by octothorpe at 2:01 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Steve Jobs cannibalizing Apple into a bailout for NeXT is one of the great acts of crony capitalism in American history.
posted by Yakuman at 2:01 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


By the way, with retina-ization of Mac OS X, the last visual vestige of NeXT was finally purged: the icons in the screenshot app.
posted by zsazsa at 2:02 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised someone hasn't made miniature versions of old computers, 1/4 scale or something, but running a simulation of the old OS on Raspberry Pi or some other micro-computer. They'd sell a ton.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:04 PM on May 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


I played Space Quest on a NeXT in a computer store I used to hang out in while my mom was shopping.
posted by anazgnos at 2:07 PM on May 3, 2013


It was possible to have MO disc as your only drive????

That's the worst thing I've ever heard.
posted by GuyZero at 2:08 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had to do sysadmin on NeXT boxes. And they were not particularly good Unix machines. Oh, the kernel was fine, but the shell tools were weird and the sysadmin stuff had all sorts of awful config file formats and mandatory graphical configuration programs. IIRC they were one of the first casualties of the Yellow Pages wars and required some weird setup to allow network logins.

Apple has imported NeXT's philosophy of weird Unix in MacOS. As if plist files weren't bad enough, there's weird lisp-like config files such as system.sb, too. And a custom filesharing protocol, a bizarre replacement for syslog, case sensitive filenames, a refusal to support statically linking binaries, and the horrible vestiges of file resource forks with the ._* file garbage. Apple (and NeXT before) have built lovely desktop user computers, but they're pretty awkward as Unix servers.
posted by Nelson at 2:10 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Steve Jobs cannibalizing Apple into a bailout for NeXT is one of the great acts of crony capitalism in American history.

That is about the weirdest characterization of the sale of NeXT to Apple that I have ever seen or could imagine.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:12 PM on May 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


More on the use of NeXT in the creation of Doom and Quake:
In fact, with the superpower of NeXTSTEP, one of the earliest incarnations of DoomEd had Carmack in his office, me in my office, DoomEd running on both our computers and both of us editing one map together at the same time. I could see John moving entities around on my screen as I drew new walls. Shared memory spaces and distributed objects. Pure magic.
I hadn't heard anything about technologies like that, and though I don't doubt that Romero is right here, I don't think shared memory spaces are still available in OS X, are they?
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:13 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


NeXT featured a very high resolution display for the time (1120×832) at the expense of color -- just four shades of gray were supported in the first version. The display, optical drive, and baked-in networking pointed to the future, but the custom-designed laser printer shows how huge a market desktop publishing still was in the late 80's.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 2:13 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. At school, the local ACM chapter liberated a few for use in the chapter's club room. They were decent remote terminals, but showing their age.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:13 PM on May 3, 2013


And they were not particularly good Unix machines.

I used to do developer training at a place that did UNIX sysadmin training. He had AIX, HP-UX and SunOS boxes. God, all the minute differences between those three. What a waste of energy.
posted by GuyZero at 2:14 PM on May 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


God, all the minute differences between those three.

This is the true essence of Unix.
posted by aramaic at 2:15 PM on May 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


Steve Jobs cannibalizing Apple into a bailout for NeXT is one of the great acts of crony capitalism in American history.

Yes, poor Apple and its shareholders.
posted by glhaynes at 2:16 PM on May 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Pure magic.

Well it sounds like standard UNIX IPC mechanisms that had a GUI on top of them for the first time. All standard UNIXes I'm aware of have shared memory IPC mechanisms.
posted by GuyZero at 2:16 PM on May 3, 2013


Llama-Lime - Nope. It was part of the distributed objects in Objective C. For a time, it was PDO (Portal Distributed Objects). I used it extensively in the early 90s when doing development on petroleum engineering applications. We used NeXT (with NeXTdimension color cards, and some adjust DSP boards) to front end a Thinking Machine CM-5. It was a fun project.
posted by petrilli at 2:18 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


OS X has standard BSD shared memory thingies: http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/Darwin/Reference/ManPages/man2/shmget.2.html
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on May 3, 2013


I've never actually seen one of these machines in person, but every time I type [NSString stringWithFormat:@"whatever%i", 4] I say in my head 'Next Step String String With Format', so I guess there's that.
posted by localhuman at 2:22 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


You could do some things very close to network-transparent shared memory using Mach messages and the net msg server (and possibly still can; Apple may reject a program that does it from the appsore though). But I'd guess Carmack was using DistributedObjects, not distributed shm.

(GuyZero, those are the standard SysV shared memory thingies!)

That is about the weirdest characterization of the sale of NeXT to Apple that I have ever seen or could imagine

At the time, the transaction was often referred to as NeXT buying Apple for negative-X-zillion dollars.
posted by hattifattener at 2:22 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, but.. that mouse.. it has TWO buttons :O
posted by Chuckles at 2:25 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Used one, never in anger. Turned down the chance to buy one for, well, never mind what for.

Also saw TBL's Cube on a visit to CERN - it was in a perspex box in in the museum, in a sort of recreation of his desk. It wasn't on. I asked whether it was still working - "yes," they said, "but we've lost the password. " Best bit? The sticker on the front: "Please do not turn off the Web".
posted by Devonian at 2:26 PM on May 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


The deal was mutually beneficial. Apple got Steve and a functioning OS that they could build on; NeXT got a new brand, and Jonny Ive.
posted by petrilli at 2:26 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was going to add a footnote stating I can never remember WTF is SysV vs BSD and the man page said BSD... why is every goddamn UNIX command always a history lesson on par with memorizing every member of the Roman Senate?
posted by GuyZero at 2:27 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes. Just one, as I recall. (Not lately, though.)
posted by LeLiLo at 2:27 PM on May 3, 2013


I don't know if they're still legitimately in business, but Black Hole Computers in MD was still selling NeXT hardware until recently. I got a replacement MO drive from them at one point for my Cube.
posted by petrilli at 2:27 PM on May 3, 2013


Used them in college, both the cubes and the pizza boxes. The UI was not good but at least it wasn't the Apollo/DECs/Suns. The dock icons were idiotically large. NeXT users were real proud that everything on screen was rendered PostScript.

Years later I did buy just a cube case intending to sand and polish it into something like this case mod, but got lazy halfway through.
posted by fleacircus at 2:38 PM on May 3, 2013


Looks cute -- but six minutes to boot?

Oh, that just reminded me of how quickly BeOS used to boot. Less than twelve seconds, to a fully-usable desktop that had such low latency that you could play back an mp3, grab the speed control (for which "stop" was the mid-point, it played forwards and backwards at fractions of and multiples of 1) and just slide it back and forth like mad while the sound dutifully played forwards and backwards in real time. It was gloriously responsive. Given the state of things these days, I truly believe if they'd had a good browser on it (instead of NetPositive or whatever it was called) it would still be around and viable.
posted by davejay at 2:39 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used BeOS as my primary OS for years. During its heyday, it really was the best thing going.
posted by asperity at 2:40 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


petrilli: "The deal was mutually beneficial. Apple got Steve and a functioning OS that they could build on; NeXT got a new brand, and Jonny Ive."

Don't forget about Avie Tevanian who developed the Mach kernel at CMU, then brought it with him to Next and then to Apple where he led the OS X development team.
posted by octothorpe at 2:40 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and reading the linked article, it feels not entirely unlike someone writing about the vintage car they've been maintaining since new.
posted by davejay at 2:41 PM on May 3, 2013


NeXT was Apple's greatest skunkworks project - so secret they pretended to install a different CEO and to drive Apple into the ground while NeXT got up and running. No one could possibly have guessed.
posted by GuyZero at 2:42 PM on May 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Got four of 'em right here. Well, one of 'em is a slab. (NeXTstation.)
posted by tss at 2:46 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: "It was possible to have MO disc as your only drive????

That's the worst thing I've ever heard.
"

NeXT pretty quickly added a 40 GB MB hard drive, just for swap space. But you still needed to mail your optical disc to software publishers to have them put software on it. Either that or suffer downloading over a 9600-bps modem. Or be lucky enough to be on a high-speed network.
posted by adamrice at 2:51 PM on May 3, 2013


Yep; I've got a pizza box in my basement, actually. I got it from a fellow nerd, but I don't know the password so I can't log in. It's neat to see what it looks like once you're past the login screen :-)

Anyone have any input as far as what I should do with it? I didn't have much luck finding hobbyists or searching eBay for other systems last time I looked. I don't want to throw it out, but I really don't see myself doing anything with it, either.
posted by nTeleKy at 2:58 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. At school, the local ACM chapter liberated a few for use in the chapter's club room. They were decent remote terminals, but showing their age.

Ditto, but no one used it for anything. It just looked pretty running in the corner.

Yes. And a Machine running BeOS, either at an Amiga or Mac expo in the days before OS X.

But was it a BeBox? It only counts if it was a BeBox.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:01 PM on May 3, 2013


nTeleKy- you can reset the password.
posted by procrastination at 3:03 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]



One of the computer labs at the University of Illinois had a few back in the early 90s. Visually, they struck me as Jobs' gambit at making a computer that was just as visually iconic as the original Macintosh while being completely different. Also completely out of most students' budgets to own personally, of course.


I think a friend of mine actually bought one from Illinois as they were clearing out the NeXTStations in the late 90s. I think we were all amazed at how advanced the OS was, even though it was many years out of date, compared to the latest commercial OSs at the time (Windows 98 and Mac OS).
posted by gyc at 3:05 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it cool that I got to play with an Apple Lisa when I was in middle school?
posted by Unified Theory at 3:09 PM on May 3, 2013


Artw: "Yes. And a Machine running BeOS, either at an Amiga or Mac expo in the days before OS X. "

I saw it demoed at a meeting of the New Orleans Mac Users Group. I was impressed!
posted by brundlefly at 3:13 PM on May 3, 2013


Objective C
Well, let's not say the OS was without its downsides.


Man, I keep trying to like Objective-C, because even though the syntax and Foundation library are gargantuan aesthetic clusterfucks, the sort of runtime wizardry that message passing lets you do is kind of cool, but I just can't muster the enthusiasm. And then ObjC programmers wave their arms around and say "but blocks!" and you get that same feeling of weird pity you get like when you see someone riding one of those tricked-out looking department store mountain bikes that you know will fall apart in three months.
posted by invitapriore at 3:14 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Objective C

More like Declarative C, amirite?
posted by GuyZero at 3:16 PM on May 3, 2013


The University of Iowa had a bunch of them in the "Information Arcade" in the library, and they all had game-related names. I think they eventually removed them since folks were installing MUDs on them (and who wouldn't want to telnet to zaxxon to play around on Midgaard?)

Learned a whole lot about networking from using those machines, they were fantastic. Every once in a while I think about picking up one for nostalgia's sake, but the price has stayed pretty constant through the years and I could never justify paying $1500 for a 68030 processor.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:18 PM on May 3, 2013


We had precisely two (sad, dusty, dirty mice) of them at our computer lab.

The first company I worked for had one in the closet, as their DNS server. It died eventually when the coffeemaker on the same circuit blew up.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:22 PM on May 3, 2013


BTW, anyone who had a need to run Mathematica lusted after that goddamn thing. This was the time of 80386 with no FPU, after all.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:27 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's my tangential NeXT story.
When I was in the Navy in 1985, I had purchased my first Macintosh, one of the 512k, Banana Jr. types. Which made me into something of a proselytizer for the platform. Apple could do no wrong.

In 1986, I got into a (drunken) argument with my fellow lobbyists about how to pronounce Steve Jobs name. I was adamant that it was "Jobes" and my buddies were adamant that it was "Jobs".

So I called NeXT. And got the receptionist. And said, in a very direct tone, "Let me talk to Steve. It's important."

She put me on hold, and then Steve picks up. And I said "I"m in the Navy, this is long distance, so I don't have a lot of time. How do you pronounce your last name?" To which he responded "It's Jobs. J-O-B-S. Anything else?"

And I said "Looking forward to the new boxes, Steve. Looks like you're finally on the right track."

*Click*

And that's my total involvement with NeXT.
posted by disclaimer at 3:31 PM on May 3, 2013 [81 favorites]


Objective C is brilliant. At least the core original language from the 90s, the one that NeXT used. So much more humane than C++. For instance, objects had types. At runtime! Which meant dynamically adding capabilities was no big thing. Nor were distributed objects. It was a key part of some of the neat innovations in NextOS like the Interface Builder. (Yes kids, the in in those NIB files you make for iPhone apps stands for "NextSTEP").

In the 90s I developed Swarm, an agent-based simulation library, using Objective C. We were about the only non-NeXTstep ObjC project of any size out there. gcc had working but minimal support and we used tclobjc to build a GUI out of Tk. It was all pretty awesome at the time, before Java was a viable option. The language has grown an awful lot now under Apple's stewardship, I can barely understand it anymore.
posted by Nelson at 3:36 PM on May 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


For instance, objects had types. At runtime!

You can't let the compiler find your errors! You wait - until runtime!
posted by GuyZero at 3:46 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


nonane and I own THREE of them
posted by dmd at 4:04 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


In '88, as a freshman, a friend and I went skulking around the IU Bloomington CS department looking for a Cube to try out. They had a couple, we found them, and played with them.

My best friend used Cubes extensively at the University of Maryland, and used the student discount to buy a pizzabox in '90 or '91. For years that box was my primary gateway to the internet and later the web.

But I was happiest with my DEC PCxl (pentium daughterboard; I couldn't afford the Alpha daughterboard) with 32 MB running nextstep -- that's what got me through grad school.
posted by jburka at 4:04 PM on May 3, 2013


My NeXT story... Steve Jobs himself came to our university for one of the 'unveiling' type presentations. Had a NeXT cube up on the stage of the auditorium playing music and such. (I think there was a duet with a violinist at some point). What I remember is that there was this demo of the dynamic bits and pieces of the GUI and Objective C. A little science app that showed a molecule in a container bouncing around to show the gas equation PV=nRT. There were knobs and sliders to control the inputs and a pane with the outputs to go along with the visualization. The kicker was... you could just drag and drop to swap out the controls. Don't like that knob? drag it out and drag in a slider. The bouncing molecule too distracting? drag out the animation thing and drag in a strip-chart thing. He did this all while the application was still running.

We ended up with a handful of NeXTs, but with the MO drive being so slow and the fact that we already had rooms full of Sun 3/50, 3/60 machines with bigger and better screens and color and 80MB disks and giant Xerox laser printers and ... Well the NeXT just wasn't that much of a game changer. Hell, my hacked up Amiga could give it a run for the money.

For the longest time I kept a set of the manuals on my dorm room shelf and proudly kept the special little NeXT screwdriver in my pen cup for geek bragging rights, and for the longest time I was probably the only person in the world using a NeXT packing box as a laundry hamper.

I still wish Objective C had won the OO C wars (but not enough to go Apple), C++ back then was just a hackish C Pre Processor that you ran your code though before compiling it with your standard C compiler.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:14 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still wish Objective C had won the OO C wars

It's the language you are required to use to code for the #1 personal computing platform of all time. Not sure how that isn't a "win".
posted by GuyZero at 4:59 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


a) "#1 personal computing platform"?

b) no you aren't. You can code in C, C++, any number of languages.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:05 PM on May 3, 2013


Hm, maybe you mean iphones.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:07 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: "It's the language you are required to use to code for the #1 personal computing platform of all time."

There's Objective C for a ZX Spectrum???
posted by boo_radley at 5:08 PM on May 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Not only have I seen a NeXT cube, I used it to surf the first web page. Which, I must admit, did not impress me much, but then I was using gopher and archie and veronica to pull down interesting bits of code and read. I did think that the PostScript display was a very cool idea.

My favorite NeXT memory: I had talked the chair of the CS department (well, division at the time - it wasn't a fully fledged department) into a key to the 'unix' lab, where there was a Sun 3/60, 4 DECStation 2100s, 2 NextCubes and an Intel Scientific Hypercube. We were trying out something on one of the cubes - Mathematica, I think - and we tried to print out a diagram or something. And then, at 2 AM, a very loud woman's voice said, "THE PRINTER IS JAMMED" or some such. I nearly jumped out of my skin.

So, after calming down, I thought voice announcements were pretty cool, too.

I had one friend who bought one, and I admit I was insanely jealous at the time.
posted by grimjeer at 5:10 PM on May 3, 2013


The best part of the cube was that you got a personal voice message from Steve Jobs. "Hi, I want to welcome you to the NeXT world!"
posted by overleaf at 5:45 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


huh. Well, OK: raise your hand if you haven't seen or owned one.

I only had a stupid Kaleidoscope theme.

:(
posted by mazola at 6:04 PM on May 3, 2013


Wait, why would someone use that nightmarish thing when Modula-3 was around?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:33 PM on May 3, 2013


I think they have one on display on top of the bookshelves at Powell's Technical Book Store on 10th and Couch. /portland
posted by blueberry at 6:41 PM on May 3, 2013


I had a NeXT and a SPARC in my dorm at one point. Got a lot more work done on the SPARC.

If you are thinking of getting an old NeXT, be sure to go with the monochrome monitor. Those were extremely nice and sharp. By '99 most of the color screens I saw were badly out of alignment. Unlike Sun, I don't think NeXT used Sony Trinitrons in their color screens. So the nice array of adjustment pots and built in screwdriver hiding under the plastic cover that you got with say a GDM-1662* weren't present. I'm sure I looked.

* I can't believe I still remember that part number.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:46 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I’ve never seen all that, thanks for the post.

Steve Jobs cannibalizing Apple into a bailout for NeXT is one of the great acts of crony capitalism in American history.

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but as a BeOS fan I was upset at the time. It worked out OK though. I went and saw a demonstration Be was doing at a school (UCLA?). It turned out to be in a basement or something with a lot of other things going on around and few people paying attention. The guy seemed surprised, and slightly put off, when I asked him to show it to me. I was pretty excited when they made it for Intel chips.

I only had a stupid Kaleidoscope theme.

One more thing making me nostalgic.

I see that there's actually a new version of Window Maker, the first update in seven years.

That’s the most surprising news I’ve heard in a while.
posted by bongo_x at 7:30 PM on May 3, 2013


I actually have a working NeXTCube sitting in my office, refitted with a CF card in place of the SCSI drive. Part of my collection of "these computers are too pretty to just get rid of!" (see also: G4 Cube, SGI o2...).
posted by arrjay at 7:35 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


And I got arrjay that NeXTCube! So yeah, not only have I seen one, I have partial rights to one that's operational. So fancy!
posted by Hwin at 7:37 PM on May 3, 2013


Yes kids, the in in those NIB files you make for iPhone apps stands for "NextSTEP"

The kids I hear these days pronounce it "zib". God help us.
posted by ~ at 8:01 PM on May 3, 2013


I got a job developing on them at WorldCom (pre-crash) days. Coming from an OS/2 shop that was transitioning to Windows, the platform was a breath of fresh air! I've been programming in Objective-C since then and have never regretted it. This was LONG before the iPhone made it popular.
posted by antijava at 8:02 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep ...one on display... at Powell's Technical Book Store.
posted by blueberry at 8:45 PM on May 3, 2013


My roommate at Berkeley was a NeXT representative on campus. It was a pretty sweet toy. If I recall correctly, this was the first time the trash icon was actually a "recycle" symbol which we interpreted as a big hippie "fuck you" to Apple.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:50 PM on May 3, 2013


disclaimer is Ray Smuckles?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:45 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, in the office of the small college newspaper where I spent quite a bit of time in 1992-94. Having been a Mac user since a couple of years before that, I still find myself resenting the bizarre horizontally-hierarchical, brushed metal finder interface that lives in every file dialog to this day.
posted by mubba at 9:46 PM on May 3, 2013


Seen one? Our entire CS department ran on various NeXTs during my time there ('92-'96), each of which was named after a Cheers character. There was a de facto pecking order, with the senior-most student in the lab having a claim on the lone Turbo Color that also hosted the university's first Web site while the sophomores waited minutes for their logins to finish on nearly stock 68030s. We even had a Canon object.station, which I suspect was the rarest NeXTSTEP system.

As interesting a platform as NeXTSTEP was the learn on, I was happy when I went to grad school and had a modern workstation -- something with a future! -- on my desk. The DEC AlphaStation and Digital Unix (nee OSF/1) are really going places!

Sigh.
posted by backupjesus at 10:26 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Those are nice photos of a good looking cube.

I worked at NeXT from 1988 until a couple years into Apple. I ultimately bailed out of my Ph.D. program to go to NeXT full-time. It was hard, but awesome, and the combined technology was truly novel. (Objective-C was great -- As fast as C when you needed it to be, nearly as flexible and expressive as Smalltalk for most stuff. Contrary to what someone upthread said, the compiler can do a lot of type checking.) We kept building software and systems to scale, then sales just didn't happen, which was very discouraging. The day we shut down the factory was truly somber.

After a few early rants, Steve was pretty decent to work with, mostly. If he chewed you out unfairly, he'd call you up and apologize later. Whatever else he did, he motivated me and almost everyone around him to do our absolute best work. I heard he got worse again as things started going really well at Apple, but I had left by then.

After the sale to Apple, the beautiful Redwood City offices (on Seaport, with the I.M. Pei designed floating staircase) were gradually becoming more and more abandoned, but I was too busy running my little bit of the business to move out until the very end. On the last day, someone had gone through and stacked about 50 (already pretty much obsolete) cubes, monitors, and printers, plus a few slabs out by the dumpsters, so I collected up as many as would fit in my VW bus and stashed them away in my garage. We burned a couple of cases at Burning Man, and I eBayed off a few whole systems, but shipping was cumbersome. I finally gave the last few away to an excited college kid I met at an Apple Store a few years back.

Last I checked, a bit of my code was still floating around in Mountain Lion, and I'm so thankful that I and millions of others can use what NeXTSTEP has evolved into, every day. (I suffered through a depressing few years of having to use Windows.) I stay away from Cupertino, lest I have a religious experience at the Cathedral of Apple (and I guess in a few years, it really will be The Mothership, which is what we called NeXT HQ when we were in the field) and get sucked back in. I still miss NeXT and Steve.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 12:03 AM on May 4, 2013 [20 favorites]


Oh, and nTeleKy, it is easy to reset the password, but give user/password me/myself a try.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 1:36 AM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In summer 1994 I went in for a job interview to do tech support at a new local ISP. The boss showed me his NeXT cube and assured me that as a Mac geek with a tiny bit of Unix under my belt, I wouldn't have any trouble learning to use a NeXT.

Then he said "Let me show you something else." And he opened a program called OmniWeb and loaded some web page, I don't remember which. Something with images. "Have you heard of the World Wide Web?" he said. He clicked a few links and my mind was blown. I had heard of the web and even visited a page in Lynx (that one was an XTC fan page if I recall correctly) but the text-only page I'd seen hadn't excited me much. I'd even heard of Mosaic, but had never seen it.

Part of my job was to create web pages in between calls, so I spent the next couple of days finding a description of HTML and then practicing. There were no web design books on the market yet. Not a single one! I used the NeXT for a while until I got to switch to a Mac for my work.

Jesus, almost 19 years of creating web pages. How is that possible?
posted by litlnemo at 3:21 AM on May 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


procrastination: "nTeleKy- you can reset the password."

Or, you know, he could foster it at Uncle Samizdata's Home for Computers No One Really Wants To Deal With Anymore (But He Still Mostly Finds Way To Make Them All Productive LAN Members).

So there's that solution too.
posted by Samizdata at 4:54 AM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a NeXT developer for a brief period. I still have my NeXT t-shirt. In other words, BTDT.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:39 AM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the mid-90s, I took an entry-level tech support job at an ad agency to pay the bills while trying to make a feature film. The agency had worked on the NeXT account, and been paid in machines, and we had to support them. We also had them on our desks at the help desk, and in between boring support phone calls ("Is it plugged in?" "Have you tried rebooting?"), I'd surf the web via OmniWeb. From there, I started building web pages, and then moved into a job producing sites for companies. I basically have NeXT to thank for my entire career.
posted by judith at 7:14 AM on May 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Objective-C was great -- As fast as C when you needed it to be, nearly as flexible and expressive as Smalltalk for most stuff. Contrary to what someone upthread said, the compiler can do a lot of type checking.

I do agree with this. It's pretty much as static or dynamic as you want it to be, at least within your own code, so it accommodates a range of styles in that regard.
posted by invitapriore at 7:18 AM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


My experience with the thing was when my ex worked as a caterer at Techmart when it opened. Next had a bunch of spaces in the building and were being super secret. I would help my wife bus and clean up in the eves and we would go into the Next office and check stuff out while picking up coffee cups and muffin wrappers. Fast forward 18yrs my friend ran ACE Auto a legendary junkyard, a bunch of Next computers came in. Only the bases of the monitors are made of mag as far as we saw. They got ground up and mixed with highway flares and made into flash bombs.
posted by boilermonster at 9:40 AM on May 4, 2013


so I collected up as many as would fit in my VW bus and stashed them away in my garage. We burned a couple of cases at Burning Man

Ok, seriously, how awesome is it to have lived out a scene from a Po Bronson novel?
posted by GuyZero at 9:55 AM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although I was already on board with Apple since 1979, in college I became the campus rep for NeXT. A physics professor hired me to help him write fractal routines in Mathematica and eventually that turned into my first paid programming gig. Several years later, I worked at the William Morris Agency who purchased 250 NeXT workstations. Still one of my favorite computers to work on.

By the way, there's a very obvious NeXT product placement in the movie Flatliners. Don't know of any others.
posted by quartzcity at 4:08 PM on May 4, 2013


i have one of these in my defunct computer museum. it was given to me by a co-worker whose wife was tired of looking at the boxes. now my wife is tired of looking at the boxes... never tried booting it up.

i think, though at my advanced age i'm never sure anymore if my memories are my own or were implanted by the tyrell corporation, that i saw steve jobs demo the next cube at the berkeley mac users group sometime in the late 80s.
posted by joeblough at 4:43 PM on May 4, 2013


The kids I hear these days pronounce it "zib". God help us.

that'd be the new-style .xib format that has replaced the traditional .nib
posted by russm at 5:36 PM on May 4, 2013


There's a NeXT box in my parents' garage. No one knows how it got there, or what to do with it, but it seems a shame to get rid of it. So it just sits there quietly, humming and plotting.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:54 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have 3 to 7 NeXTs, depending on how you count them. Someday I'll get the cubes out, have glass cut to fit the tops, put them next to my sofa, and see how long it takes until someone notices they aren't just side tables.

Maybe I'll keep the accordion on one of them.
posted by yohko at 9:46 PM on May 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I saw a lot of them when I worked for a Chicago investment bank in the 90s. NeXT was their platform of choice. When hardware was getting scarce, they adopted NeXTStep on PC hardware. I still miss some of the features of that OS. One memory I have is the easter egg in Digital Webster (seen in the screen shot in the linked article) that could be used to infuriate gullible co-workers. Network logins could have headshot photos associated and this was done consistently at this office. If you looked up the word "gullible" in Digital Webster, it would show the picture of the person logged in to that computer. So you could go to a co-worker that didn't know about the easter egg and say "hey Joe, you're gonna be pissed, but sysadmin put a picture of you in the definition for gullible." Lotsa yucks for that one.
posted by AstroGuy at 8:53 AM on May 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lusted after a Cube in college. They were impossibly expensive. Tried to get a bank loan to buy one (fortunately they declined).

Years later, bought a non-ADB slab and monochrome monitor. It was already hopelessly outdated, but fun to play with. Eventually picked up a Cube from eBay. Found another lonely slab at a hamfest and nursed it back to health.

While visiting the DigiBarn, they had a NeXT that wouldn't boot. Dropped it into ROM Monitor, fiddled a little, et voila! There's still a picture of me lurking on the site as "NeXT expert". My 15 min...

Finally sold everything off when we needed space and I realized it hadn't been turned on in over a year. Still regret that decision sometimes (especially when I see what Cubes go for on eBay now). I kept the one-square-foot brochure.

I run Linux now, but my homedir icon and default beep sound are both from NeXT. Very cool machines.
posted by bitmage at 9:13 AM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


After looking at ebay, I'm considering that maybe I don't need two end tables that are worth more than all my other furniture would bring. Cubes cost a lot more these days than last time I checked.
posted by yohko at 2:03 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


russm: "that'd be the new-style .xib"

This is pronounced "chib" by all right thinking individuals.
posted by boo_radley at 12:40 PM on May 10, 2013


This is pronounced "chib" by all right thinking individuals.

say what? the extension isn't ".χib", so I hereby deem that pronunciation ridiculous.
posted by russm at 6:14 AM on May 11, 2013


A man does a thing with his nextstation
posted by boo_radley at 7:04 PM on May 19, 2013


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