This probably nearly belongs on Skeptics.SE but here goes.

Within the last few years I've become an Apple convert for the most part, which occasionally brings me into (usually) good natured conflict with a good friend at work who hates Apple (and who got me the job because they needed an iOS developer, so obviously he can't hate Apple too much)

Anyway the other day though I got into an argument with him I don't have the answer to. The premise of his argument was that Apple could have ruled the world with the Macintosh (as in, Windows/IBM Compatibles wouldn't have had a 90% or whatever market share) but Steve Jobs was just too hard headed and wouldn't let anyone, except maybe Adobe, develop for it. That they wanted to control all the software and have it go through them, and since Microsoft didn't exert any such control, plus they were available on everything, they "won" and Apple floundered for years.

I'm almost certain he's wrong (for one, it sounds like he's conflating portions of the modern iOS App Store with what Apple could have pulled off in 1984) but I'm not finding a lot of real concrete data on what early Macintosh development really was like. One source I've read said that for a while there was some sort of issue which meant you had to write code on a previous machine, like the Lisa, and copy it over to a disk. I've also seen info that said Apple was just slow to deliver compilers and an SDK (another thing that at least parallels early iOS development).

Did Apple originally not let anyone develop for the Macintosh or is this a myth based on some other factor like a lag time in getting developer tools out there?

  • 8
    Atari did this with their 8-bit computers, by holding back information programmers needed to write software for the systems, thinking they would write all the software themselves. Eventually they realized the mistake, and released the information, but it was too late to hold back the Commodore 64.
    – Tim Locke
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 12:17
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    Your friend may not be exactly right, but there's a lot of truth to it. Apple is repeating a lot of the same mistakes they made the first time around, and they're losing the iOS/Android market share battle for the same reason they lost the Mac/PC market share battle: trying to exert too much control over the ecosystem. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:44
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    @MasonWheeler his friend is nowhere near right. Documentation was widely available down to the hardware level, discounts were offered on the development machine and Apple specifically went out and courted developers like Microsoft. See some of the answers below.
    – Tommy
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:45
  • 5
    Not let any develop for Mac? Quite the opposite. Famously, Apple hired Guy Kawasaki to invent the concept of developer “evangelism” to recruit developers both big and small to build software for the Macintosh platform. Kawasaki has written and spoken extensively on the great lengths he and his Apple colleagues went to in “selling” the new platform to developers. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 21:47
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    One thing I remember is that Mac hardware was ridiculously expensive. In around 1994 you could shell out $2000 for a native Mac-compatible monitor, or you could buy a PC monitor for $250, get a $25 Mac-To-VGA adapater plug, and have higher resolution with more colors! This adds weight to the idea that at least one of the driving factors that held Apple back was cost.
    – ErikE
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 18:39

12 Answers 12


This is most certainly a myth. There was no conspiracy by Steve Jobs or Apple to prevent third-parties from engaging with the ecosystem that would eventually flourish for Classic Macintosh applications.

Interestingly, one of the earliest, significant, 3rd party applications to be released for the Macintosh was Microsoft Word in 1985. Microsoft had already developed Word for other platforms, and was able to quickly port it to the Macintosh, thanks in part to Apple's assistance in granting Microsoft pre-release hardware and system software. In fact, members of the original Macintosh team have written about Steve Jobs specifically recruiting Microsoft to be involved in Macintosh application development, such as this article by Andy Herzfeld. The original Word for Macintosh was very successful, and actually outsold all other versions of Word for the next 4 years.

Because the first Macintosh released was severely challenged on RAM (only 128K), it could not be used as an effective development system. Normally, developers would use a Lisa with 1M RAM instead, and cross-compile their application to run on the Macintosh. This would have been a barrier to entry for very small developers only because the Lisa was an expensive bit of gear costing around $10,000+, but this was not a ploy to limit third-party application developers.

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    Developers got Lisa discounts, but it still wasn't cheap. My June 1983 letter from Apple confirming my purchase as an "independent developer" shows they charged me $6,997 for the Lisa, $417 for Pascal, $473 for the printer, and $137 for a parallel card, $8,024 total. Equivalent to over $19k now.
    – joe snyder
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 5:42
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    Word also had another advantage - it wasn't written "native". The early Office apps were designed to be portable, so you only had to code the "virtual machine" for the new platform. Early access to the hardware and software was still very important, but a lot more to Apple than MS - Apple needed a good office suite on launch (WYSIWYG text editor in particular is a great benefit of GUIs), and they didn't have anything good enough. They didn't expect much interest in the new computer if the buyers couldn't work, and you wouldn't develop software for a platform with no users. Catch 22.
    – Luaan
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 12:43
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    For most of the life of the original Mac, Microsoft was by far for the largest Mac software vendor, and the jewels were Excel and Word. I believe it hands down beat even Apple's own subsidiary Claris. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:37
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    @Random832 they did something a lot stupider than that; after Word 5 they decided to unify the Windows and Mac codebases by throwing out all existing Mac code. The result, per one of Microsoft's own blogs — blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/rick_schaut/2004/02/26/mac-word-6-0 — was that "Mac Word 6.0 was a crappy product", whereas "Even today, there are people who say that Mac Word 5.0/5.1 comprise the best version of Mac Word we’ve ever shipped." (probably still true, though the blog is from 2004).
    – Tommy
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:44
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    @Luaan, that wasn't true originally, nor for very long. Word for Mac started as a fully compiled application, although it certainly shared at least internal architecture (I imagine it was mostly assembler, so it would have been hard to share source code). It only became a "VM" implementation with Word 6. The Mac application quality suffered remarkably and it was generally despised. We're told that it felt like a Windows app slapped on top of the Mac. Word 98 reverted to a native implementation. Don't blame MS: I challenge anybody in the early '90 to argue that it didn't look like a great idea. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:46

The premise of his argument was that Apple could have ruled the world with the Macintosh (as in, Windows/IBM Compatibles wouldn't have had a 90% or whatever market share) but Steve Jobs was just too hard headed and wouldn't let anyone, except maybe Adobe, develop for it.

This is actually a distortion of the real argument. Apple never stopped other developers from writing software for the Macintosh although it is possible that Steve Jobs wanted some sort of ecosystem similar to the iOS app store.

The real argument is that Apple could have ruled the world (in personal computer terms) if they had been prepared to licence the operating system to other PC hardware manufacturers. That way (the argument says) the world would be full of Macintosh clones and not IBM PC clones.

The argument has some merit: in the mid to late 80's everything about the Mac was superior to the IBM PC except the price. A whole load of clones would have solved that issue and everybody would have been happy...

... except Apple. The difference between Apple and Microsoft is that Apple is and always has been a hardware company. Apple would not have been able to compete with the clone makers (think how many PCs IBM sells now) and it would have been reduced to being the company that sold the operating system.

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    Of course, Apple did eventually try licensing Mac clones but that wasn't until the mid 90's and they were pretty much a flop. I think the general consensus there is it was too little, too late.
    – mnem
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 0:25
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    One thing to know: Apple charged for their SDK. It started relatively low (cost of some hardbound books) but eventually grew to a few hundred dollars I think, per year. It was a major decision by Microsoft (Windows OS division prevailed over the developer tools division (or whatever the org structure was then)) to make the Windows SDK free - that influenced a lot of companies large and small to develop for the early versions of Windows (Windows 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, etc).
    – davidbak
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 4:53
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    @davidbak Yes that was a shrewd move on Microsoft's part to get acceptance for Windows amongst developers. In fact, i heard that they were handing the Windows SDK out for free on CD at computer shows.
    – JeremyP
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 9:48
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    @mnem That was because Apple needed the cash at the time and even then some execs were concerned that the better clones were eating into their own sales. Steve Jobs canned the programme soon after his return.
    – JeremyP
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 9:54
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    @Luaan No, earlier versions of Microsoft C could compile Windows programs with the Windows SDK. How do you think Microsoft built their own programs? Do you think they would release an OS that would require developers to buy their main competitor's product?
    – JeremyP
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 10:04

The first set of Inside Macintosh books was about 1000 pages of documentation covering everything you needed to write a Macintosh application, and was available from the beginning. It didn't only cover the APIs, but also gave advice on how to design the user interface, since it was one of the first GUIs.

Folklore.org has a story about the process of writing Inside Macintosh: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Inside_Macintosh.txt

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    Furthermore, Volume III is a complete hardware description of the original Macintosh. Apple provided enough information for third parties to write a completely different OS if they wanted. I feel like a couple of the early games were booters rather than MacOS applications.
    – Tommy
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:29

Initially, Apple had a developer program, and I applied. They rejected me. At that point, I think they were looking for larger organizations, not individuals. Without membership, API's were not available.

That did not last long, though, and I bought Inside Macintosh as soon as they (several volumes) hit the market. Those documented the API's, and the information got more and more open with time.

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    Welcome to Retrocomputing! What year was it that Apple's developer program was locked down to organizations?
    – JAL
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 18:23
  • Good question. It had to be 1984 or 1985. (I remember where I was, and moved in '86).
    – donjuedo
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 20:43
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    Don't know what they were looking for, but I had all the tools in 1984. And I never, ever heard of a lockdown to larger organisations.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 21:21
  • I was able to become a developer as a student in 1986. My memory was the developer program was wide open, and I soon got a job at one of the first Mac software companies (they told me the first WWDC was them, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and a couple dozen other developers). It was easy to buy Inside Mac books, and get a developers system. I used Borland as my first development system and soon switched to Think C. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:28
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    I read the v0.9-something version of Inside Macintosh back in the day (maybe late 1984, likely just before the release of the 512k model). It was typeset in what looked like typewriter, and the illustrations where rectangles with what would pass for alt text these days. The biggest inhibitor to doing Mac development was the cost of a development system (a Lisa, specialized Apple compilers). But, you also had to apply to be a developer; they initially didn't seem to want small shops involved. However, that was mostly gone by the end of 1984; lots of shops/people were writing apps.
    – Flydog57
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 18:35

Having rediscovered the original text while researching a comment to another answer here, Bill Gates wrote this to Apple in 1985:

Apple must make Macintosh a standard. But no personal computer company, not even IBM, can create a standard without independent support. Even though Apple realized this, they have not been able to gain the independent support required to be perceived as a standard.


The Macintosh has failed to attain the critical mass necessary for the technology to be considered a long term contender: ...

d. Independent software and hardware manufacturers reinforced the risky perception of the machine by being slow to come out with key software and peripheral products.

The thrust of the memo is to argue for a licensing of the OS, to which Microsoft wants to contribute, but as to the proposition that "Steve Jobs was just too hard headed and wouldn't let anyone, except maybe Adobe, develop for it", the contemporaneous Bill Gates recognises that Apple realised it needed independent support and attempted to obtain it, and places the blame for slow software releases on independent software developers. So the proposition is false.

EDIT: see also this moment in the original 1984 Macintosh presentation. It's partway through the first carousel of Macintosh application screenshots, showing a Pascal development environment. Which — regardless of whether it correlates to anything real that actually shipped — would be odd were Apple intending not to "let anyone, except maybe Adobe, develop for it".

  • The linked letter from Bill Gates mentions that Windows 1.0 came out shortly thereafter and strongly hints this was the crucial event. Windows was just an annoyance with no specific benefit that was needed to run Word or similar and then shut down again for the first few versions until Version 3.0 came out that could run DOS programs well. Then around 3.1 came the internet to Windows and with Win95 came the real "bye bye DOS experience". Windows 1 was't that. Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 22:58

... Apple could have ruled the world with the Macintosh (as in, Windows/IBM Compatibles wouldn't have had a 90% or whatever market share) but Steve Jobs was just too hard headed and wouldn't let anyone, except maybe Adobe, develop for it. That they wanted to control all the software and have it go through them, and since Microsoft didn't exert any such control, plus they were available on everything, they "won" and Apple floundered for years.

Why did Microsoft take the lead

So, you have to understand a bit out how computing was back then. It's very hard for us to understand today, as we have many computers in our homes, tables, and cells. Back then a computer was not something that a person would have. It was something that a business would have, and maybe just one or two of total, for a huge business.

Microsoft and Apple went after two very different markets at the start. MS went after the business man that wanted to work from home. You could have a MS-DOS PC that had some word processing and spreadsheet app, in your house.

Apple, on the other hand went after hardware. Again this is tricky to understand today. But essentially MS would let anyone that wanted to build hardware and run their OS. Apple on the other hand wanted to make sure that the OS only ran on "their" hardware.

So while apple was focused on pushing their "hardware" Microsoft focused instead on pushing their "software". The push hardware model was certainly "the way things were done" Tandy, Atari, etc, had showed some success in this area, while at the same time, software was thought to be risky.

However Microsoft's approach to pushing software worked out. Other companies (like IBM and Packard-Bell most notable at the start) already had established hardware channels and were able to "retro fit" MS DOS onto existing hardware cheap and easy. A small boost, that Microsoft was able to turn into a big win.

Steve Jobs was just too hard headed..

Possibly, I don't know him personally, but he has a reputation for being stubborn and demanding. Though, he never, at any time that I can recall, outright blocked app development, or even tried to. The app store, as it is today, didn't exist, and it's mostly market share that lead companies to decide to write code or not for apple. That said, he did spear head a decision process that would come back and lend a little truth to this argument.

Few people wrote applications

This is true. Mostly for market share reasons as noted above, but for one other, really big reason. No one wanted to.

As much as we developers go where the money is, we also have a strong ability to influence what platforms we develop for. Microsoft had a massive list of "compatible languages". Back then there was BASIC which was good for hobbies and small programs, but bad for complex programs (though it was used anyway). Assembly, which no one liked but we all could use (a lot of programming back then was just wrapping assembly calls in something else), C/C++, Borland C (C but a little different) Fortran, Delphi, etc. etc. etc. There were libraries and tool chains to help you out, and just a bunch of choices.

On the Apple side of the fence there, Apple decided, early on, to focus on a single good, solid tool chain, instead of a hoge-poge of middling tools. There was more then one language, there was more then one tool chain, but when it all came down to it, there were just more restrictions and fewer choices to work from.

What essentially happened is that "it was no fun", so fewer developers would write code for it. The developers that could or would charged more, and thus an application had to be larger to to make money and support development.

At the same time Apple had carved out a market sector and couldn't really break into new areas. They dominated in Education and Graphic Work, and, in those areas, they had plenty of companies willing to write code for them. The products they made were successful enough they could pay the developers more, so the developers were willing to have "less fun".

On the Microsoft side of things, there were "tons" of developers willing to work for little or no money. Their platform was "fun" enough and had enough choices, that applications, not all of them good, flourished. There were tons of crap applications that barely worked, or didn't work at all.

As an example, lets say 1 in 100 applications for DOS and windows were "good" applications, and 1 in 5 applications for Apple OS were "good". Windows/DOS had thousands of applications, Apple only had 500. Yes apple had the "it works" thing going for them. But if you wanted to do a thing you maybe only had a choice or two to choose from. In Microsoft land you could have 10s or hundreds to choose from, even if a lot of them sucked.

This spiraled a bit, and it looked like Apple would fail, or at least "stay small".

Did Apple originally not let anyone develop for the Macintosh or is this a myth based on some other factor like a lag time in getting developer tools out there?

Neither, their developer tools were out from day one, and they were very open with letting applications on their platform back then. It just wasn't fun, they failed to attract developers (companies or people), so their application pool suffered. MS on the other hand successfully attracted tons of developers. This made dev costs for an Apple app go up and a DOS app go down. So much that you would only attempt to write code for an apple product if it was a "sure thing" and if the potential market was large enough.

There was, back then, never any direct resistance to making an application for Apple OS. It just wasn't fun or profitable to do so. Anyone could do it, and Apple even had some programs to help with costs, but the tools and decisions involved, just didn't appeal to most.

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    The Mac never used Next Step until after Jobs returned, about 20 years later. The Mac Toolbox was heavily documented by Inside Mac, and all the documentation was based on Pascal. The first development tools were Pascal, but pretty quickly everyone switched to ThinkC. Apple came out with Mac Programmers Workshop and you could pick from C or Pascal. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:31
  • I remember being able to choose C or Pascal, there were also tools for Apple BASIC. I do remember their windowing system being quite laborious to work with, but I don't remember why. Of course that was a "little later" as the first PC and Apple computers were essentially text mode only, sort of.
    – coteyr
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 6:41
  • And we developers do not like being herded into specific development tools. For Vic-20 and C64, Commodore proscribed their proprietary cross-developer based on the 8032 PET. I designed cross-development hardware that let us develop on our familiar and robust-by-diversity Atari platform. I named it the FYC 8032 Killer, because I was cheeky like that back then. Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 17:32

Developing software for the Mac was certainly very expensive and complicated, but it wasn't really part of Apple's strategy - it was a trade-off that didn't pay off. It wasn't that Apple actively hindered developers (apart from providing quite a bit of bundled software). It's just that you needed to learn a new language, a huge new API, a completely new programming style, buy at least two Apple computers (the Mac itself wasn't really powerful enough for development)... Quite a bit of investment at a time where Apple seemed to be chaotically changing everything all the time, so you could expect that the next generation hardware and software would again be 100% incompatible with the previous generation.

Apple certainly tried to attract developers. The most obvious being the near-partnership with Microsoft (which were one of the few companies who actually released software for the Mac). They just weren't very successful, despite making claims to the contrary. The Mac managed to outsell the IBM PC by quite a margin at first - but while the Mac was left with just the claims, the IBM PC compatibles actually had the software. It still got considerable presence in DTP and graphics in general, something that survives to this day to some extent.

But the main problem was still that it wasn't compatible with anyone else (including Apple's own computers); why would you write a software at great expense that would only run on a tiny margin of computers that were quite a bit more expensive than the competition? Microsoft built up on being compatible with as much of the market as possible; the others (both on the IBM market and Apple) tried to keep everything closed and incompatible, and lost. It's ironic how one of the biggest vendor locks ever only really occured because Microsoft didn't try to lock anyone in - they welcomed everyone, so they became the natural choice for almost everyone; and replicating their success would mean not doing "a nice, clean system" - it would mean all the little compatibility tweaks and hacks that made everything work well together. It's quite a feat that DOS applications still run perfectly fine on Windows 10.

The basic idea is quite simple. Computer is a platform. OS is a platform. Their only purpose is to run applications. So do you pick the platform that can run all your applications, or the platform that makes you throw them away on purpose? And to make things even worse, Apple emulators sprung up all over the place, capable of giving you a 100% Apple compatible clone on an IBM PC (clone) that cost a fraction of an Apple PC. IBM PC was designed from the ground up as an open platform (though it backfired - IBM expected to complementarize the extension card market, but they actually lost control of the PC itself); the resulting market was very active, bringing the margins and prices very low. The real winner was the customer (yay!) and Microsoft (by becoming the true common platform for everyone to target). They didn't try to take over the applications (though there certainly had been periods of that as well), they let people develop them, just like they didn't try to make their own, closed, hardware.

Apple wasn't really a company you could rely on as a developer at those times. Apple II was very popular with developers, but the introduction of Mac and Lisa made things a lot trickier (and they all kind of run in parallel). Steve Jobs had an appreciation for elegance, beauty; he certainly cared a lot more about the user experience than the developer experience. Some aspects of the company could be seen as rather chaotic - requiring you to learn a whole new language (new as in "not used before on Apple computers") to program for the new platform, and then dropping it in the next. APIs that were either entirely incompatible, or at least required some upgrade process.

It certainly wouldn't be out-of-character for Jobs to try to control the whole software market for Apple computers (just like Apple mostly did for the hardware). But it wasn't really possible. There was no legal or technical way he (or Apple) could enforce that, so the only real influence they could have would be to make poor tools, documentation, APIs for developers. And they weren't really poor; they were just a bit too inconvenient - I wouldn't assume they were intentionally sabotaged, they just didn't seem attractive enough. Could it be fixed with a bit more directed effort? Not really. It would need a huge amount of effort, and Apple at the time didn't really care that much about making it easier for others to compete with Apple (you can see the same episodes with many companies - Microsoft, Oracle, IBM...). You can still see this today - even minor updates of Apple OSs routinely break applications developed for the previous version. The iOS market shows how Apple might have been in control in time of the Mac if such control were possible then - but even there you can clearly see that software from other developers is encouraged - just under Apple's conditions.


I have to agree with the "it's a myth" crowd, but I need to add that Apple's troubles are more about the hardware than software: The PC hardware platform rapidly became rather open, as it was built out of off-the-shelf parts. Note that this openness wasn't by design, but it happened anyways. Mostly due to Compaq, if I recall correctly.

Apple, back then, was just like it was now hardware wise: only they are allowed to make Apple devices, and they come in the designs and prices that Apple deems appropriate. There's no low-end companies sneaking in to address budget-sensitive customers, nor high-end companies addressing the high performance or gaming customers. Your Model T will be painted black, and you will like it.

Granted, this often isn't useful to the parent company (IBM doesn't even make PCs anymore; they sold their business a ways back to Lenovo), but it is quite good for the platform's continued existence.

(The first and only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history)

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    The IBM PC was mostly designed to be open, IBM just didn't expect that others would start building IBM PC compatible computers; they wanted others to make extension cards to IBM PCs (thus driving their costs down while keeping the lucrative PC sales to IBM). Compaq was the first who (legally) reverse engineered the previously closed parts of the PC, allowing them to use both the software and hardware produced for the IBM PC in their own "clones", which didn't have much trouble competing with IBM's underpowered models. Also, nowadays the Mac OS X runs on non-Apple computers and vice versa.
    – Luaan
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 14:50
  • Apple did encourage clones at one point. Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 5:12

In the mid 80s I was working for Pete & Pam Computers - at the time the biggest UK distributor/retailer of Apple/PC hardware/software in the UK (we were Microsoft's reps in this country until they established an office over here, which happened surprisingly late) and I remember that about the only business software available for it was by Microsoft, including Multiplan, Word and Chart, along with Aldus Pagemaker (they weren't bought by Adobe until 1994). The big lock in was with the OS and the hardware - we had a very nice little business in adding 3rd party hard drives to original machines (the official hard disk equipped machines were frightenly expensive). I remember being impressed by its originality but unconvinced about its prospects - mind you, I thought the same about Windows 1.0

  • Welcome. I think you are saying that Microsoft were developing programs for Apple?
    – nsandersen
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:35
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    Many of the original big-hitting Mac applications were from Microsoft or were eventually acquired by Microsoft. Microsoft even made an offer for the MultiFinder back before Apple acquired it and put it into the OS, not through some sort of evil motive but just because it was a neat piece of software they thought their customers could benefit from being in wider distribution. Also: Windows 1.0 definitely did not have good prospects.
    – Tommy
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:36
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    Windows 1.0 wasn't really interesting as a standalone OS; but Microsoft's strategy of allowing you to bundle a Windows runtime with your application (or was that from 2.0 on? I'm not sure) was quite effective at overcoming the usual platform-application catch 22. The end users didn't need to buy Windows to run Windows applications at first.
    – Luaan
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 15:12
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    @Luaan They certainly dropped it somewhere around 3.1-ish.
    – user
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 15:58
  • Windows 1.0 barely booted. Apps (Corel Draw, an early port of Excel to Windows, I think) bundled Windows 2.0. The bundle-ing was gone by Windows 3.0
    – Flydog57
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 18:41

The kernel of truth to the myth lies in the Lisa. You could get a Pascal dev environment for the Lisa, or you could run the famous pre-Mac multitasking windowed GUI environment. But at launch you couldn't run the Pascal dev environment in the GUI -- it was essentially a completely separate OS. Disk formats weren't even compatible.

As a result, while you could theoretically have tried to make a living writing Lisa software, it was essentially impossible to publish third party GUI apps for the Lisa Office System like the word processor and the spreadsheet app. Eventually the LisaOS became a dev environment for the Macintosh, but not a dev environment for the Lisa itself.

Steve Jobs absolutely wanted to make a computer that would do everything you needed, as a closed system. HE took some inspiration for Xerox which was working on the Star which was an early almost mac-like GUI system that was sold as an "office system" rather than as a general purpose computer so it never had third party software and wound up being almost completely uninfluential in the general industry.


Back then Apple didn't have the AppStore (this has only appeared since the iPhone), so it was possible to write software for the Macintosh, as it was then, and distribute it on 3.5" floppy disks.

The trouble is, it was devilishly complicated (witness the size of the documentation, which was also v. expensive) and there wasn't an internet from which to glean examples and get questions answered. And it was all in C, or later Objective-C. So many tried and many gave up the will to live.

I wish I'd persevered...

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    The documentation wasn’t very expensive, it was three large-format books priced about $30. It had a reputation for being complicated because approximately nobody had actually written event-loop based graphical applications at that point except maybe game developers. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 6:13
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    The early versions of System were written in Pascal.
    – Tim Locke
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 12:20
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    @TimLocke I think the early version of the System (i.e. the thing eventually rebranded to MacOS) were written in assembly; applications were mostly written in Pascal. System 7 was the first version of the OS substantially written in a high-level language if memory serves.
    – Tommy
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:38
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    System 1 to 6 were written in Pascal with bits of hand-written Assembler for speed. Mac OS 7 had the new parts written in C. Mac OS 8 was supposed to have all the Pascal rewritten in C. This is why the Mac Toolbox and OS used Pascal calling conventions and was documented largely with Pascal. Source 1, Source 2, Source 3
    – Tim Locke
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 17:19
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    Here is a source that's not random hearsay. Andy Hertzfeld wrote much of the original Mac operating system and he says that they hand coded assembly for much of it from original Pascal. Anyone who developed on the Mac back then knows as @Tim Locke said, that the APIs used Pascal calling conventions because that's the high level language used to create most of the OS. folklore.org/… Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:34

Mac's success is largely caused by Microsoft. In the early days, Microsoft was one of the few firms that produced software for MacOS; without its software, one could argue that the MacOS brand would have quickly died out (who wants to buy into an OS with almost no software).

  • You mean for MacOS right? Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 2:23
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    Do you have sources for any of these claims?
    – JAL
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 4:43
  • 2
    Welcome to Retrocomputing Stack Exchange. I see that you've gathered a few downvotes; these might be to do with the minor error (iOS is what runs on the iPhone, which is way too new to be considered retro; you probably meant MacOS). Don't be too discouraged; try reading the tour and answering another question.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:19
  • Microsoft dominated early Mac computing. The initial Macs (1984) came with MacWrite and MacPaint bundled in. Other than some games, there wasn't much else available. Word (and then Multiplan and Chart) came out in 1985 and ran on a 128k Mac (Apples first update to MacWrite wouldn't run on a 128k Mac). By the end of 1985, Microsoft released Excel and, along with PageMaker, completely dominated the Mac market for business apps. I wrote my masters thesis (Chemical Eng) with Word v1, Multiplan and Chart on an original issue Mac (which is still on a shelf somewhere in the house)
    – Flydog57
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 18:51

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