Open Step

Circa 1985 when SteveJobs left (or "was ousted from") Apple Computer, he went off to form his own company, NeXT Computer, Inc., along with a group of very talented engineers. Their goal was to write the Next Big Thing -- a fully integrated operating system, windowing environment, and development environment that they were to call NextStep.

The system was object oriented from the start, top to bottom, largely using a then-little-known (and now-little-used) language called ObjectiveCee. As it grew and evolved it included fully featured toolkits for: GUI development (known as AppKit?), KeywordIndexing? (Indexing Kit), database access (DBKit), distributed programming (DistributedObjects and PortableDistributedObjects?), and others. It also included development tools such as InterfaceBuilder (still, today, 14 years later, considered innovative), and ProjectBuilder.

Initially the software ran only on NeXT hardware, which was a high-end (at the time) workstation with a M68K based architecture. In 1993, due to lack of market interest, NeXT "shot its hardware division in the head" (a direct quote from Jobs) and retargeted the software onto other architectures, including M88K, Sparc, and Intel 486 & Pentium. This new "open" version of the software was known as OpenStep.

The software continued to grow and evolve despite mediocre market interest and by 1995, the software was becoming very mature, having a 10 year history and some large installations with big name clients. And from start to finish the environment remained consistently OO and the language, runtime, and toolkits remained innovative and mature. At this time the software was clearly componentized into: Foundation (string, array, dictionary, distributed objects, and other fundamental classes), AppKit? (GUI), and EOF (ORMF). Each of these toolkits were far ahead of their peers technically but still did not have a lot of market interest.

As this software has been released in various forms, it has been known as: NextStep, OpenStep, Rhapsody, Yellow Box, Mac OS X, and Cocoa. There are mailing lists for the developer community for OpenStep and related technologies available at

The software industry had begun moving towards the web [which was invented on the NeXT by TimBernersLee], and in response NeXT produced WebObjects. This framework was built upon the previous frameworks and was made for producting three-tier applications to web environments. A "Java bridge" was also included which allowed transporting objects to and from the Objective-C and Java environments. Market interest finally started to pick up. But this is another story...

Randy Tidd
Another important aspect of OpenStep, vs. NextStep, is that it was ported to other operating systems like Win32 and Solaris. The aforementioned WebObjects has been quite popular to deploy on Solaris, although many WebObjects developers are tortured into using Windows as their development machine.

Machines like the Sun SparcStation? could run OpenStep on top of Solaris, or the brave could install OpenStep Mach for the Sparc architecture in place of Solarus to get the full GUI experience of OpenStep.

An interesting possibility would have been to port Display PostScript to Windows NT, and have it own and control its own screen group or presentation manager, separate from the terminal full screens or Windows GUI. This was probably never attempted, and OpenStep ran somewhat poorly on Windows because all graphics were constricted by the limitations of GDI.
Apple has notified it's customers with a message that effective later this year, certain software products, originally licensed by NeXT Software and/or Apple will no longer be available for purchase. 2002

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