Happy Belated 20th, Aqua!

body of water

A long time ago, this used to be a side-blog about my Apple news, the “Mac” part of MacManX.com. That usage may have dropped off over time, but the name never changed. To avoid further rambling (this post wasn’t planned in advance, can you tell?), a variety of posts like this one from MacStories reminded me that Mac OS X turned 20 this year, and that awoke a lot of memories, specifically about its interface.

mac os x aqua with cinema display

I don’t have any screenshots myself, like this one I’m shamelessly borrowing from that article or the one below shamelessly borrowed from Wikipedia, but as I am reminded of what Aqua was like 20 years ago, I really kind of miss it. Steve Jobs described it as “lickable,” and yeah, it was. These glossy buttons, those smooth windows, the opacity, that blue, and heck even the overall aesthetic of that era with the Cinema Display. Everything is just so clean now, and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we got out of Mac OS X 10.4‘s brushed metal phase, but part of me does miss the whimsy of that “lickable” interface.

mac os x public beta

I got my start on what is now Classic Mac OS, System 7 to be specific, and this totally redone interface was an exciting breath of fresh air. I stood in line for it! Who stands in line for OS releases anymore? Well, I guess no one these days, but the latest OS updates with their small design tweaks here and there will never compare to the massive whimsical overall of Aqua. Every step forward in that line was a few inches closer to something earth-shattering for younger me. I always enjoyed using my computer, but this made it fun!

That “lickable” interface is long-gone. Apple still uses “Aqua” as the name for macOS’s interface, and the incremental changes over the years didn’t bother me, but looking so far back, the Aqua of macOS today is just not the Aqua that excited me 20 years ago. So, happy belated birthday, Aqua! I miss you!

If you’re looking to reminisce a bit deeper, check out this collection of Macworld reviews, and this collection of Ars Technica reviews.

2 responses

  1. Supposedly fashion goes in 30 year cycles, so 10 years from now we can probably expect MacOS to look more like the original Aqua, and Apple will tell us it is “completely new” and “the best OS design ever!”