Mac OS 8

Mac OS 8 is an operating system that was released by Apple Computer, Inc. on July 26, 1997.[2] It represents the largest overhaul of the classic Mac OS since the release of System 7, approximately six years before. It emphasizes color more than prior versions. Released over a series of updates, Mac OS 8 represents an incremental integration of many of the technologies which had been developed from 1988 to 1996 for Apple's overly ambitious OS named Copland. Mac OS 8 helped modernize the Mac OS while Apple developed its next-generation operating system, Mac OS X (renamed in 2016 to macOS).

Mac OS 8
A version of the Classic Mac OS operating system
Screenshot of Mac OS 8.1
DeveloperApple Computer, Inc.
OS familyMacintosh
Working stateHistoric, unsupported
Source modelClosed source
Released to
July 26, 1997 (1997-07-26)
Latest release8.6 / May 10, 1999 (1999-05-10)[1]
Kernel typeMonolithic (68k),
nanokernel (PowerPC)
Default user interfaceApple Platinum
Preceded bySystem 7
Succeeded byMac OS 9
Official websiteApple - Products - Mac OS 8.6 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 22, 1999)
Support status
Unsupported as of May 2001

Mac OS 8 is one of Apple's most commercially successful software releases, selling over 1.2 million copies in the first two weeks.[2][3] As it came at a difficult time in Apple's history, many pirate groups refused to traffic in the new OS, encouraging people to buy it instead.[4]

Mac OS 8.0 introduces the most visible changes in the line-up, including the Platinum interface and a native PowerPC multithreaded Finder. Mac OS 8.1 introduces a new, more efficient file system named HFS Plus. Mac OS 8.5 is the first version of the Mac OS to require a PowerPC processor. It features PowerPC native versions of QuickDraw, AppleScript, and the Sherlock search utility. Its successor, Mac OS 9, was released on October 23, 1999.


Starting in 1988, Apple's next-generation operating system, which it originally envisioned to be "System 8" was codenamed Copland. It was announced in March 1994 alongside the introduction of the first PowerPC Macs. Apple intended Copland as a fully modern system, including native PowerPC code, intelligent agents, a microkernel, a customizable interface named Appearance Manager, a hardware abstraction layer, and a relational database integrated into the Finder. Copland was to be followed by Gershwin, which promised memory protection spaces and full preemptive multitasking.[5] The system was intended to be a full rewrite of the Mac OS, and Apple hoped to beat Microsoft Windows 95 to market with a development cycle of only one year.

The Copland development was hampered by many missed deadlines. The release date was first pushed back to the end of 1995, then to mid-1996, late 1996, and finally to the end of 1997. With a dedicated team of 500 software engineers and an annual budget of $250 million, Apple executives began to grow impatient with the project continually falling behind schedule. At the Worldwide Developers Conference in January 1997, Apple chief executive officer (CEO) Gil Amelio announced that, rather than release Copland as one monolithic release, Copland features would be phased into the Mac OS following a six-month release cycle. These updates began with Mac OS 7.6, released during WWDC. Mac OS 8.0, released six months later, continued to integrate Copland technologies into the Mac OS.[6]

In August 1996, Apple chief technology officer Ellen Hancock froze development of Copland[7] and Apple began a search for an operating system developed outside the company.[5] This ultimately led to Apple buying NeXT and developing Rhapsody which would eventually evolve into Mac OS X in 2001 (now named macOS).

Mac OS 8.0

Developed under the codename "Tempo", Mac OS 8.0 was released on July 26, 1997. (after being introduced a few days earlier on July 22[8]) Initially, the early beta releases of the product which were circulated to developers and Apple internal audiences, were branded as Mac OS 7.7, superseding the then-current release, Mac OS 7.6. Afterward, the software was later renamed Mac OS 8 before final release.

Major changes in this version included the Platinum theme, a Finder which was PowerPC-native and multithreaded, and greater customization of the user interface.

Other features introduced in Mac OS 8.0 include the following:[9]

  • Customization of system fonts and increased use of the user-set accent color.
  • Pop-up context menus, accessed via ctrl-click with a one-button mouse.
  • Pop-up (or tabbed) windows in the Finder.
  • Spring-loaded folders.
  • Live scrolling.
  • WindowShade widget in window titlebars.
  • Multithreaded Finder — file copy operations run in a separate thread and don't block the Finder UI.
  • Redesigned color picker.
  • Desktop Pictures control panel, allowing photographs to be set as the desktop background; not only tiled patterns.
  • Simple Finder, an option which reduces Finder menus to basic operations, to avoid overwhelming new users.
  • Relocation of the 'Help' menu from an icon at the right end of the menu bar to a standard textual menu positioned after the application's menus.
  • A faster Apple Guide, featuring HTML help pages.
  • Native support of Apple Filing Protocol over IP.
  • Performance improvements to virtual memory, AppleScript execution and system startup times.
  • Faster desktop rebuilding.

Mac OS 8.1

Released on January 19, 1998, Mac OS 8.1 was the last version of the Mac OS to run on Motorola 68000 series processors. It addressed performance and reliability improvements. It introduced a new file system named HFS+, also named Mac OS Extended, which supported large file sizes and made more efficient use of larger hard drives via using a smaller block size. To upgrade, users must reformat the hard drive, which deletes the entire contents of the drive. Some third-party utilities later appeared that preserved the user's data while upgrading to HFS+. The 68040 systems do not support booting from HFS+ disks; the boot drive must be HFS.[10]

Mac OS 8.1 was the first system to have a Universal Disk Format (UDF) driver[lower-alpha 1], allowing for DVD support on the Mac for the first time. It also shipped with the new Java runtime (JDK 1.13).

Mac OS 8.1 also included an enhanced version of PC Exchange, allowing Macintosh users to see the long file names (up to 255 characters) on files that were created on PCs running Microsoft Windows, and supporting File Allocation Table (FAT) 32.

Mac OS 8.1 is the earliest version of the Mac OS that can run Carbon applications. Carbon support requires a PowerPC processor and installation of the CarbonLib software from Apple's website; it is not a standard component of Mac OS 8.1. Applications needing later versions of CarbonLib will not run on Mac OS 8.1. More recent versions of CarbonLib require Mac OS 8.6.

As part of Apple's agreement with Microsoft, 8.1 included Internet Explorer 3 initially, but soon switched to Internet Explorer 4 as its default browser.

Mac OS 8.1 was free for Mac OS 8 owners and was available in February 1998 via the website.

Mac OS 8.5

Released October 17, 1998, Mac OS 8.5 was the first version of the Mac OS to run solely on Macs equipped with a PowerPC processor. If Mac OS 8.5 is installed on a 68k system, the Sad Mac error screen will appear. As such, it replaced some but not all of the 680x0 code with PowerPC code, improving system performance by relying less on 680x0 emulation.

It introduced the Sherlock search utility. This allowed users to search the contents of documents on hard drives (if the user had let it index the drive), or extend a search to the Internet. Sherlock plug-ins started appearing at this time; these allowed users to search the contents of other websites.

Mac OS 8.5 includes several performance improvements. Copying files over a network was faster than prior versions and Apple advertised it as being "faster than Windows NT".[11] AppleScript was also rewritten to use only PowerPC code, which improved AppleScript execution speed significantly.

Font Smoothing, system-wide antialiasing for type was also introduced. The HTML format for online help, first adopted by the Finder's Info Center in Mac OS 8, was now used throughout. This made it easier for software companies to write online help systems. The PPP control panel was removed and replaced with Remote Access, which provides the same functionality but also allows connections to AppleTalk Remote Access (ARA) servers.

The installation process was simplified considerably in Mac OS 8.5. In earlier versions the installer worked in segments and often required a user to click to continue in between stages of the installation. This was a holdover from the days when the OS was distributed on multiple floppy disks, disk swapping promoting a natural segmentation model. The Mac OS 8.5 installer generally required very little user interaction once it was started. Customisation options were also much more detailed yet simpler to manage.

From Mac OS 8.5 onward, MacLinkPlus document translation software is no longer bundled as part of the Mac OS.

Mac OS 8.5 was the first version of the Mac OS to support themes, or skins, which could change the default Apple Platinum look of the Mac OS to "Gizmo" or "HiTech" themes. This radical changing of the computer's appearance was removed at the last minute, and appeared only in beta versions, though users could still make (and share) their own themes and use them with the OS. The Appearance control panel was also updated to support proportional scroll bars, and added the option for both scroll arrows to be placed at the bottom of a scroll bar.

Along with themes support, 8.5 was the first version to support 32-bit icons. Icons now had 24-bit color (16.7 million colors) and an 8-bit alpha channel, allowing for transparency-translucency effects.

The application palette made its debut with 8.5 – the application menu at the right side of the menu bar could be resized to show the active application's name, or 'torn off' into a palette of buttons. This palette could be customized in many ways, by removing the window frame and changing the size and layout of the buttons. Apple provided no user interface to set these options, instead making them available via AppleScript and Apple Events and relying on third parties to provide a user interface for the task. By setting it to display horizontally and turning off the window border, the palette could be configured to look and function much like the Windows 95 task bar.

Mac OS 8.5.1

Mac OS 8.5.1, released December 7, 1998, is a minor update to Mac OS 8.5 that fixes several bugs that caused crashes and data corruption.

Mac OS 8.6

Released May 10, 1999, Mac OS 8.6 adds support to the Mac OS nanokernel to handle preemptive tasks via the Multiprocessing Services 2.x and later developer API. This update improved PowerBook battery life and added Sherlock 2.1. This free update for Mac users running 8.5 and 8.5.1 is faster and much more stable than either version of 8.5.x and is also the first version of Mac OS to display the version number as part of the startup screen. However, there is still no process separation; the system still uses cooperative multitasking between processes, and even a process that is Multiprocessing Services-aware still had a portion that ran in the "blue task", which also runs all programs that are unaware of it, and is the only task that can run 68k code.

Versions of Mac OS 8

Version Release date Changes Computer Codename Price
8.0 July 26, 1997 Initial release Power Macintosh G3 Tempo $99 US
8.1 January 19, 1998


HFS+ file system iMac (Bondi Blue) Rev. A Bride of Buster Free update
8.5 October 17, 1998 PowerPC required, Sherlock, Themes, 32-bit icons iMac (Bondi Blue) Rev. B Allegro $99 US
8.5.1 December 7, 1998

Crash, memory leaks and data corruption fixes iMac (5 flavors) The Ric Ford (of Macintouch) Release Free update
8.6 May 10, 1999


New nanokernel to support Multiprocessing Services 2.0, battery life improvement iBook Veronica


Macintosh model 8.0[12] 8.1[12] 8.5[12] 8.6[12]
All Centris / Quadra machines Yes No
Macintosh LC 475, 575, 580
PowerBook 190
PowerBook 520
PowerBook 540
PowerBook Duo 2300 Yes
PowerBook 5300
PowerBook 1400
PowerBook 2400
PowerBook 3400
Power Macintosh 4400
Power Macintosh 5200
Power Macintosh 5300
Power Macintosh 5400
Power Macintosh 5500
Power Macintosh 6100
Power Macintosh 6200
Power Macintosh 6300
Power Macintosh 6400
Power Macintosh 6500
Power Macintosh 7100
Power Macintosh 7200
Power Macintosh 7300
Power Macintosh 7500
Power Macintosh 8100
Power Macintosh 8500
Power Macintosh 7600
Power Macintosh 8600
Power Macintosh 9600
Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh
Power Macintosh G3 All-In-One
Power Macintosh G3 Yes: machine-specific version only Yes
PowerBook G3 No
iMac G3 Yes: machine-specific version only Yes
iMac G3 (266 MHz, 333 MHz) No
Power Macintosh G3 Blue and White Yes: machine-specific version only Yes
iMac G3 (Slot Loading) No Yes: machine-specific version only
Power Macintosh G4 (PCI Graphics)
Power Macintosh G4 (AGP Graphics)

See also


  1. Read and write version support for UDF version 1.02 only. Some earlier versions of the operating system could support UDF via third-party utilities as far back as 7.5, along with additional UDF version support. Future versions of UDF were not officially supported until 8.6.


  2. "Apple Sells 1.2 Million Copies of Mac OS 8; Best Software Product Sales Ever in First Two Weeks of Availability". Archived from the original on April 23, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  3. "Mac OS 8 Sales on Fire". Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2007.
  4. "Where do you want to pirate today?". Forbes. August 8, 1997. In fact, the latest word out in the Macwarez scene is that pirates shouldn't copy Apple's OS 8—Mac's latest operating system—they should buy it, since Apple so desperately needs the money.
  5. Linzmayer, Owen (1999). Apple Confidential – "The Copland Crisis". No Starch Press. pp. 225–226.
  6. Carlton, Jim (1999) [1997]. Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania and Business Blunders (2nd ed.). London: Random House Business Books. ISBN 0099270730. OCLC 925000937.
  7. "How Apple Took its NeXT Step". in August, newly hired chief technologist Ellen Hancock froze development altogether.
  8. "Apple Introduces Mac OS 8--Most Significant Macintosh Operating System Release Since 1984". Apple. July 22, 1997. Archived from the original on February 20, 1999. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  9. Pogue, David; Schorr, Joseph (1999). MacWorld Mac Secrets, 5th Edition. IDG. pp. 318–319.
  10. "LowEndMac".
  11. "Apple Introduces Mac OS 8.5 - The Must-Have Upgrade". Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  12. "Mac OS 8 and 9 compatibility with Macintosh computers". Apple Inc. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
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