Window Maker

Linux is different from Windows in that you can choose the look and feel of your desktop. So lately I have been playing around with a dinosaur window manager called Window Maker. Let me explain why.

Back in 1989 after Steve Jobs left Apple, he started a new computer company called NeXT. The main hardware product that NeXT designed was a very high-end workstation for academia and business called the NeXTcube.

Not many NeXTcubes were actually sold at the time and NeXT was a failure. So why did Apple buy it, pay Steve Jobs over 30 times his initial investment, and bring him back into the company?

In 1989 Apple was struggling and desperately needed a new operating system. The innovative NeXTStep O/S on the Cube fit the bill. After NeXTStep was integrated into the Mac ecosystem it became the basis for the Apple operating systems for the next 20 years. OSX and iOS are direct descendants of NeXTStep. And what Steve Jobs did after his return to Apple is the stuff of legend.

After the arrival of Linux the GNU project developed a clone of NeXTStep called OpenStep. with a window manager they named Window Maker. Window Maker is still around today and while it would be considered quite antiquated, it is fast and light on memory. Using it takes me back over 30 years to the NeXTcube. How many other pieces of software from 30 years ago are still useful today? It’s lots of fun.

Oh, there was one notable customer of the NeXTcube. Sir Tim Berners-Lee got one at CERN and developed the World Wide Web using it as the server. At one time if you had powered down the NeXTcube you would have switched off the WWW. Go figure.

The video games Doom and Quake were also first programmed by id Software on the NeXTcube. Not bad for a failed computer system.

So now you know the rest of the story.

Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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