White and black

<pre>White and black

From the outside it seemed like a surrender: when the company fires half its staff and closes the most visible part of its business, what else can you think? In fact, everything was even worse – but they did not intend to surrender.

Public opinion made a verdict: “black” iron, as dubbed computers from NeXT in the industry for their unusual tragic color, was too slow and was not suitable anywhere. The company switched to Intel, and rightly so.

Public opinion clearly sympathized with the company, a rare case in history. NeXT Software was waiting for something special. Mostly sympathetic. It is very different, this is an opinion. The company did not become “public”, it was presented on the stock exchange, and its actions were not reacted by crowds of panicked shareholders.

In 1991-92, the performance of the “black iron” from NeXT was not inferior to the competitors, and it was very suitable for the tasks it performed, but in public opinion there lived its mythical image – insanely beautiful black cubes, mysterious and unusual.

] Did Jobs do the right thing, turning NeXT Computer into NeXT Software? The answer to this question is more complicated than it seems. Insufficient data. The financial position of NeXT can only be surmised: it was a private company owned by Jobs.

Most likely, with profitability, she had serious problems. In addition to Steve and the company's accountant, nobody knew about the real state of affairs.

The RISC revolution was inevitable. Mass production of processors, “the same as on powerful workstations”, “incredibly powerful” that was about to sweep away the current “old” from the market, was just about to begin … It was very close, but it still has not started yet.

Mass production of the first serial PowerPC should have started about a year later. Naturally, the first to receive them, in industrial quantities, are “members of the trade union.” I mean, the consortium. Apple. But for Apple, the consortium with its participation in any case would have special prices and preferences.

Delay with the release of NeXT RISC Workstation on the market for a year, or even for two years, would have changed little. Worse would not have happened. The prototype NRW in the company was already, it could be brought to the unearthly perfection. So far, the 68040 with a clock speed of 33 MHz was one of the best mass-produced processors …

Continuation, beginning here, and here.

Toy Story of Jobs

The period between the expulsion of Steve Jobs from Apple Computer and his return is divided into two parts that are not equal in duration. For the periods NeXT and Pixar.

We have all heard about respected business people who are on the myriad boards of directors of completely unrelated corporations – this, strangely enough, does not require any special intellectual efforts from them.

But investing your soul in several cases at once is another. NeXT or Pixar, from the point of view of any member of the boards of directors of a two-digit number of companies, would be considered “business” incorrectly. Instead of generating revenue, both companies devastated the accounts of Steve Jobs. They were his toys.

Some play Crusoe's Robizonov, some are aerobatics, why not?

In the NeXT era, Steve directly “ruled” this company. He made decisions, communicated with candidates for filling vacancies, made mistakes and corrected them. He was the head of the company and its owner.

Most likely, with the exception of 1992, NeXT was hopelessly unprofitable. 1992 brought either a small profit, or much smaller losses than usual. There is no exact data.

It seemed that there was still an effort or two – and the company would occupy a worthy place in the industry. In the world of hundreds of thousands of companies, most of them successfully and profitably sell their products, hundreds of them are widely known and popular, but only a few of them manage to turn their products into cult.

NeXT succeeded – but no one guarantees anything to anyone . But on Pixar, who passed their circles of hell, just as inspiring love and balancing on the brink, there was hope – ethereal and almost unreal.

Steve could not help but feel it, but the prolonged period of failure turned him into a skeptic, and he believed in it, then no – and hope did not go away, despite the setbacks and failures.

Before that, Steve, from time to time, stopped by Pixar, solved the accumulated questions, and again plunged into NeXT. Now he was torn between the two companies, increasingly leaving for “cartoons.”

And he did not have much money. “Promoted.”

The leapfrog with RISC processors occurred on the boundary between these periods. The bet on RISC Steve was ready to make one of the first in the industry. A year before the release of SPARC and MIPS. Of the work to create 88000 Motorola did not make a secret, and if in the very first cube from NeXT in the history of mankind was MC88100, could things have turned out differently?

At the boundary between the NeXT era and the Pixar era in his life, everything was again on the edge.

NeXT had a chance. Unique. In fact, he was no longer there, but nobody knew about it yet. A workstation with a RISC processor, with a frequency of 50-66 MHz, appeared a year or two before the RISC revolution, had a chance to “break” the market. Many people wanted to connect their lives with NeXT, the company had a strong support group, despite modest sales volumes and more than a modest user base …

This workstation was waiting, about the readiness to buy it by the hundreds and thousands of Steve wrote very serious people – answering for their words. They could wait a couple of months. Longer – no.

NeXT engineers were in time. Have had time twice. And the prototype on one 88110, and the prototype on two PPC-601 (50 MHz), worked. The last one could be brought to the commodity level in a month or two. But …

Did not have time to Motorola.


NeXT invasion of the land of “white” iron began on May 25, 1993, with the release of NEXTSTEP 3.1. Its task was to capture and hold the bridgehead, and intelligence. It was a clash with another civilization, very diverse, massive and cruel. Exploration by battle.

The bridgehead was captured and held, but at the cost of huge losses. Reputational. The forces were unequal. I am amazed by the shortsightedness of the observers who interfere with the commandos on a strange and unfamiliar territory because of their small number and inability to defeat all immediately and immediately, with a mighty blow.

Disadvantages NEXTSTEP 3.1 painted with ecstasy and enthusiasm, not paying attention to “3.1” at the end of the name of the new system. It was the version number. The version number, with a decent probability, implies continuation. The next version.

Claims were: only selected IBM PC variants are supported, and rare extensions; there is no compatibility with Windows; a huge number of bugs and glitches. Here it is, NeXT!

NEXTSTEP 3.2 was introduced to the public in October 1993, its sales began in November. Represented the system by Rick Jackson, NeXT Software's director of marketing. Not Steve anymore. Times have changed.

Rick made a short digression into the story, and laughed (along with the audience) over the most famous and unpleasant bugs in 3.1. These bugs have been fixed. In 3.2, more than 500 bugs were fixed. But this is not the main thing.

Now PC users can enjoy high-quality sound, graphics and video. The fact that for several years was available to users of “black” iron. But this is not the most important thing.

Support for configurations is extended (enumeration ending with the phrase “and others”). Not all configurations are supported, but all are worthy of attention. NEXTSTEP 3.2 simply does not make sense to install on cheap budget PCs, it's a serious system that needs serious resources.

As part of the SoftPC 3.1 system, thanks to which the user can use programs for DOS and for Windows.

PDO (Portable Distributed Objects) for HP is a stand-alone software product that simplifies the server's interaction with NEXTSTEP with the client on HP, and vice versa. In an alien NEXTSTEP system, its authorized representation appears, taking care of data transmission, querying and management.

The number of configurations of “white” iron is almost infinite. The number of peripheral types is amazing. The industry's need for drivers for all these devices is huge.

And in NEXTSTEP 3.2 there is an excellent answer to this need. It's called DriverKit. This is an object-oriented library (framework) for driver development.

The set contains basic drivers for various categories of peripherals, and their subclasses with added properties, often non-trivial. For example, drivers supporting 32-bit “true color,” for SCSI, graphics, and networking.

New drivers are created based on the drivers in the set, as subclasses. The library has a hierarchy of dozens of objects that can be used for educational purposes. All their source code is open.

Brent Terry, chief technology integrator from Pencom, was invited to the scene to share his impressions of DriverKit. Reduces man-hours by a third. A typical Unix driver, written by standard tools, is 6000 lines of code. Drivers written using DriverKit, on average, take up only 1,000 rows.

As it turned out, the “war” was just beginning. It was long and bloody, but now no one could blame provincials from a small company remote from the raging world in inadequacy.

To be continued

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