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Previous: A NeXT emulator (alternative-system.com)
99 points by rcarmo on Dec 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

I love the name of this emulator, but unfortunately, an emulator really takes all the fun out of a NeXT... --namely, you can't light it on fire!


And you can't put your accordions on them:


(By the way: any HN folk in Boston/Cambridge interested in trying to get some NeXTs running again, please contact me...)

I'd be interested in trying. Can't promise anything. Might be a good excuse to get out of the apartment this winter. Contact info in my profile.

That is an _amazing_ story.


I managed to find some more photos here: http://macenstein.com/default/2008/06/oh-the-humanity-nextcu...

I'm a little disappointed it's not called PReVIOUS...

There's a fair amount of info about it in this forum thread: http://www.nextcomputers.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2642&pos...

...and on this wiki (inc. screenshots):


From the last page of this forum thread, it looks like the project is currently dead:

> i have stopped my work on Previous during the last month. It is unlikely that i will continue development in the future. I'm sorry for the bad news. I hope someone else will pick up the project and complete it. I'd be happy to assist with informations.

Source is here: http://sourceforge.net/p/previous/code/HEAD/tree/

Tried to build it on an ARM machine, but ran up against a few missing dependencies - trying to get those installed...

As the Beach Boys used to sing: Wouldn't it be nice?

I know this guy who collects old computers, who also has a NeXT workstation at home. I was always so envious of him. Now, I might be able to have my own. Sort of. At least, with emulation you don't need to worry about fragile 20-year-old hardware breaking.

When I was in college, my department had a computer lab that was nothing but row upon row of shiny NeXT cubes.

Unfortunately, for some reason it belonged to the university's communications department, not their computer science department, so nobody who had access to those machines had the foggiest idea what to do with them. Throwing a bunch of early '90s communications majors onto a real UNIX workstation desktop turned out to not be the smartest idea. Who'da thunk?

Kinda the story of NeXT in a nutshell, I guess -- all that potential, more or less completely wasted until it was injected into the near-dead body of Apple...

The idea of putting a bunch of normal everyday computer users in front of a Unix system manages to fill me, at the same time, with joy, fear and surrealism (if that is an emotion).

At work, I oversee a network of about 70-90 Windows clients, mostly in the hands of users who are pretty clueless when it comes to computers. Sometimes I cannot help but think what it would be like if all those computers ran a Unix system.

Some aspects of my work would become easier (no more dreaded Patchdays!), but realistically, those dreaded PEBKAC-calls from users asking simple but tedious/annoying questions would turn into torrent that would make my phone melt.

Sigh Still, one cannot help but wonder what the world would be like if either everybody used a Unix system, or if Microsoft hadn't won and we would have a flourishing diversity of operating systems. (I'm not saying the result would be better - I'm just saying I am intensely curious to know but don't want to live in such a world without knowing ahead of time if it would be an improvement on the current situation.)

Maybe next lifetime, maybe in another parallel universe, we'll find out.

If you consider OS X as Unix, you might not need a parallel universe, just another decade or two? ;-)

Back at Trilobyte, circa 1994-1997, everyone, without exception, had a NeXT (a NeXTstation or a Cube, depending on need). So everyone had email, fax, and so forth. The workload on the IT guys, as far as the NeXT kit went? Pretty much zero, other than folks like me wanting a bit more memory and disk (in my case, for a MU* or two, which was approved without trouble).

> Unfortunately, for some reason it belonged to the university's communications department, not their computer science department, so nobody who had access to those machines had the foggiest idea what to do with them. Throwing a bunch of early '90s communications majors onto a real UNIX workstation desktop turned out to not be the smartest idea. Who'da thunk?

For basic non-programming uses of a computer, I remember the NeXT being sort of a the polar opposite of the PC where the Mac was the center of the scale -- the apps were generally better than Mac apps (which were generally better than PC apps), but there were fewer of them on each step from PC->Mac->NeXT.

And I seem to recall that the key general-usage ones were bundled with the NeXT, so I would have thought they would have, for the time, made very good machines for a communications department, if the work that would go into making use of any computers effectively was done.

Sure, they were UNIX workstations, but one of the things about them is that you could use them without being really conscious of that.

I used a Cube for a year or so when I was in college. Ironically, we were working on instrumenting NFS, which we couldn't do directly, so it was mostly a thin client (and an excellent mail/editing station). I don't think anything came close, though, and still miss it even though I use Macs these days.

Old hardware can be surprisingly robust; after many moves essentially all my 20-40yr old hardware is still running. Everything was discrete and some boards look like they were soldered by dropping a pail of molten lead on them.

Oh, and for those of you wanting a relatively recent Linux that looks and feels like the NeXT, I just found out http://wmlive.sourceforge.net/ was updated this September!

For those who'd like to continue, there is NeXT support in MESS:


Is there anything in NeXT that didn't get ported to OS X / Objective-C ?

Display Postscript in NeXTSTEP was replaced with Quartz in OS X and iOS. DP has licensing issues with Adobe, and I believe there were performance issues with the client/server architecture of DP that were resolved with Quartz.

The NeXTSTEP "Workspace" and file manger were replaced with Finder in OS X. Finder was a direct port of the classic Mac OS Finder, implemented in C/C++ using the gnarly but powerful Carbon file manager APIs rather than Objective-C, Cocoa, and the comparatively limited NSFileManager APIs (limited icon support, no file alias support, no asynchronous or interactive file operations, etc.)

The Carbon Hot Key APIs came from Classic Mac OS and are still the only way to do global hot keys in OS X. They're one of the few bits of Carbon still supported in 64-bit OS X.

The Finder and all its functionality was ported to Cocoa in 10.6. All related functionality has eventually made its way into Cocoa: NSWorkspace, NSURL, NSFileManager, and NSFileCoordinator. The Carbon file management APIs are long, and thankfully, dead.

Wow, that's an interesting bit of trivia. I didn't realize old Finder code (well, Carbon stuff) was kicking around that long.

Enterprise Objects Framework, NeXTSTEP's File Viewer and Shelf (better than Finder), Digital Librarian (nice concept they should have kept), and a lot of utilities.

I also miss the NeXTSTEP menus, as for a big display, they are much easier than scrolling up to the top of the screen.

I was going to mention NeXTSTEP menus. I liked how you could tear them off, arrange them around the screen as desired and the app would remember your customizations for next time.

I used WindowMaker for years because of those very menus. Of course, these days it looks a bit dated... And √Čtoil√© seems to have died off, too..

My work desktop is FreeBSD 10.1 running WindowMaker and I personally love the "dated" look. Reminds me of my teenage years, running Redhat 6.x, listening to nu-metal with XMMS and spending way too much time on IRC.

In terms of the operating system and included apps, it's remarkably similar after over 26 years.

NeXTMail evolved into Apple Mail. Preview and Terminal retained their functions and their names. Digital Librarian (indexing specified files) was succeeded years later by Spotlight. Unfortunately we lost Digital Webster, a nice thing to have before the days of always-on Internet connections, which I think was linked to all apps via the command-equal-sign. Interface Builder survived. WebObjects survived. There was a TextEdit-precursor, but the very nice lightweight word processor WriteNow from a third party did not survive to be included in OS X.

The OS X Finder is recognizably similar to later versions, maybe >2.0?, of NeXT's Workspace Manager, with the primary navigation the same (albeit with the scroll bar on the bottom instead of the top and favorites on the top instead of the left). The original NeXT design was probably cleaner. And I still miss a dock that you can flick up and down.

I have a NeXT cube in my home office closet. I've turned it on in the last few years and it works, but the original 660MB hard drive -- a monstrosity for its time! -- has failed. :(

How did Digital Webster differ from the dictionary in OS X today? You can look up any word on your screen by pressing cmd-ctrl-D

We lost EOF. It's partially there in Core Data, but a lot of the functionality is lost.

WebObjects, a Objective-C EE stack if you will.

It got ported to Java, back when Apple still wasn't sure to keep Objective-C or port everything to Java.

Nowadays I think it is in life support.

SoundKit and MusicKit were lost (thus an app I wrote which relied on them couldn't be ported to OS X beyond Rhapsody).

Made me wonder if there might be an Irix VM available. I really enjoyed running the old Origin Series Silicon Graphics machines.

I might have some Irix programs I wrote somewhere.

Now i find myself pondering MO and removable storage in general...

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