Building Bridges

Every Mac Gets Left Behind

- 2012.02.21 - Tip Jar

OS X Mountain LionThe Mac Web has been on fire since last week when the news broke that OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is apparently going to leave behind another large number of Macs, some discontinued as recently as 2009. A lot of people are upset about this. I can't say I blame them, but I also can't say that this isn't something that we haven't seen many times before.

In this article, I am going to point out the versions of the Mac OS that left machines behind after a short period of time (36 months or less). When you get done reading, I think you'll be happy that Apple is supporting Macs for a long as it is.

Mountain Lion Isn't the First

When Mac OS 8 launched in July 1997, it dropped support for all machines with a 68030 processor. This included the PowerBook 150, which was discontinued in October 1995, just 21 months before the launch of Mac OS 8.

When Mac OS 8.5 launched on October 17, 1998. It dropped support for all machines with a 68040 processor. This included the PowerBook 190 series, which was discontinued in September 1996, just 25 months before OS 8.5 launched.

When the first version of Mac OS X Server launched in March 1999, it dropped support for all pre-G3 based Macs. This included the Power Mac 9600 series, which has been discontinued in March 1998. That was just 1 year before the launch of OS X Server.

fruit colored iMacsWhen the first consumer version of Mac OS X launched in March 2001, it also left behind the pre-G3 Macs. Although OS X 10.0 supported almost all G3 Macs, it didn't support graphics acceleration on machines without a Rage 128 (or better) graphics chip. This includes all Rev. A - D iMacs, Beige G3 Power Macs, WallStreet and Lombard G3 PowerBooks, and the original Clamshell iBook. Some of these machines weren't discontinued until September 2000, which means some of them were only 6 months old when OS X first shipped.

When Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard launched in August 2009, it dropped support for all PowerPC based Macs. Apple started phasing out PowerPC-based Macs in January 2006, and the dual-core Power Mac G5 was available until August 2006, just 3 years before Snow Leopard launched.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will launch this summer. Apple hasn't posted hardware requirements, but based on reports from those using the Developer Preview, it will apparently drop support for 2006 and 2007 Mac Pros (sold until early 2008), 2006 through 2007 MacBook Pros (sold until early 2008), 2006 through 2008 MacBooks (sold until early 2009), the original 2008 MacBook Air (sold until late 2008), 2006 and 2007 Mac minis (sold until early 2009), Late 2006 iMacs (sold until mid 2007), and all Xserves (sold until early 2009).

The whole point of Mountain Lion is to bring more features from iOS to the Mac.

It sucks that an iPhone 3GS that with a Geekbench score of 289 supports Notification Center, Twitter integration, iMessage, Game Center, Reminders, Notes, and Documents in the Cloud, but a Mac Pro that gets a Geekbench score of 11,580 can't run Mountain Lion. But even though it sucks, Mountain Lion is not nearly the worst offender when it comes to dropping support for older hardware.

What Needs to Be Done

I think that if we really want old hardware to keep working for us, we need to stop expecting Apple to keep supporting it and start expecting the developer community outside of Apple to.

Kudos to Cameron Kaiser for developing TenFourFox (Firefox 10 ported to G3, G4, and G5 Macs) and Classilla (Mozilla ported to Mac OS 9). We need more developers like him to keep supporting our hardware. It is people like him - not Apple - that will keep our machines going long after Apple drops them. LEM

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Chris Carson is a longtime Mac user and a more recent convert to iPhone and iPad.

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