(By the way: any HN folk in Boston/Cambridge interested in trying to get some NeXTs running again, please contact me...)
I managed to find some more photos here: http://macenstein.com/default/2008/06/oh-the-humanity-nextcu...
...and on this wiki (inc. screenshots):
> 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.
Tried to build it on an ARM machine, but ran up against a few missing dependencies - trying to get those installed...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
I also miss the NeXTSTEP menus, as for a big display, they are much easier than scrolling up to the top of the screen.
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. :(
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.