Which developer set the precedent?

I began wondering after recalling that Mozilla Firefox starts in safe mode if Shift is held at application startup time. Predecessors … I'm certain that Netscape Communications Corp didn't set the precedent, because the initial release of Netscape Navigator was in 1994.

For Apple Computer, Inc. and uses of Shift at or after system startup, the earliest references I can find are from November 1991 and August 1992 (I began using Macs around January 1993). Respectively:

… Peter Crownfiefd (via Zmac). …

… discovered that holding down the Shift key during startup not only bypasses System extensions but also bypasses items in the Startup Items folder, if you want your extensions to load but not the files in the Startup Items folder, wait until all your extensions have loaded and you see the "Welcome to Macintosh" message and then press the Shift key. Continue holding down the Shift key until the desktop appears. …


… To block the opening of items in System 7’s Startup Items folder, press the shift key when the Finder’s menu titles first appear in the menu bar during start-up. To additionally inhibit the loading of extensions from the Extensions folder. Control Panels folder, and System Folder, press the shift key when the smiling Mac icon appears at the very beginning of the start-up sequence. You can release the shift key after the “Welcome to Macintosh” message appears. …


Did Apple set the precedent?

  • 1
    Migration is a good idea, I wasn't aware of the retro area. I ought to look to see whether there's already a question re: other, older keys; for this question I'm interested in the Shift key. Mar 11 '19 at 20:36
  • @nohillside re: the Shift key, I can't see anything comparable in the retro area. Would you like to migrate this question as is? Mar 23 '19 at 16:55
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    Apple IIgs System 6 added similar shift key startup functionality as of May 31st, 1991 (System 6 wasn't released until 1992). MacOS 7 was released in early May 1991, so presumably that was their inspiration. Mar 23 '19 at 19:21
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    Shift actually does the opposite on Acorn BBCs and Electrons; it means load what's on disk after completing startup — i.e. load more, not less.
    – Tommy
    Mar 24 '19 at 19:52
  • @KelvinSherlock would you like to make that an answer? With or without a reference, it's useful. Thanks. Mar 24 '19 at 22:45

I don't think you're going to find a single origin of this idea. The precedent for similar features on Apple machines goes back to early 1983 and the Apple //e.

The Reset key on the Apple ][ was close to the Return key, and was hit accidently more often than was desirable. On the //e, Reset by itself did nothing, Ctrl-Reset reset the machine and Open-Apple-Ctrl-Reset did a cold start with a self-test. The Open-Apple key later turned into the familiar clover-leaf key of present-day Apple machines.

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