On the eve of WWDC 2017, I’m starting a new series of posts looking back at past WWDCs. My aim is to make original slides/videos publicly available for the sake of preservation, add historical context, and to find interesting tidbits: undelivered promises, unrealized possibilities, presenters who would later rise through the ranks, etc. First up: WWDC 97.
From May 13th through 16th, 1997, Apple held its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, CA. Five months after the purchase of NeXT, Apple demoed Rhapsody, a new NeXT-based operating system that would eventually replace the classic Mac OS. Apple would also continue to develop the classic Mac OS, including the release of Mac OS 8 that summer.
I think it’s fascinating to examine this transition point in Apple’s history, in the context of the changes that transpired over the next year:
Gil Amelio was fired in July, and Steve Jobs replaced him as CEO in September. In the following months Jobs ended the clone program, killed the Newton and other underperforming products, and introduced the Power Mac/PowerBook G3.
The Rhapsody strategy would also be overhauled. As shown at WWDC 97, Rhapsody would require Mac applications to be largely rewritten for the Yellow Box (later renamed Cocoa) APIs in order to take full advantage of Rhapsody’s protected memory, preemptive multitasking, and other modern features. Mac developers (particularly large ones including Adobe and Microsoft) were not excited about this. At WWDC 98, Apple introduced Mac OS X, based on Rhapsody but including a much cleaner migration path (the Carbon APIs) for existing Mac apps. Although Mac OS X shipped almost 2 years late and the transition to it was sluggish, history has proven Mac OS X (and its derivative OSes including iOS) to be a massive success.
While doing research for this post, I came across a WWDC 97 trip report written by noted Mac developer John Norstad (of Disinfectant and NewsWatcher fame). It’s a very interesting read: like nearly all Mac developers at the time, Norstad is bitter and skeptical from seeing Apple’s continual engineering failures in the preceding years. But after seeing the Rhapsody strategy and the engineering management changes led by Steve Jobs, Norstad leaves the conference cautiously optimistic about Apple’s future.
As Norstad states, for Mac developers who felt “…burned too many times by promises that went unfulfilled”, WWDC 97 was Apple’s first step at regaining their trust.
not my CD, thanks to appletechlab.jp
These presentations come from the ‘97 WWDC Presentations CD, and were originally saved as
.ppf files (Aldus/Adobe Persuasion Presentation Files). Hat tip to Steve Troughton-Smith for pointing out that they’re just animated GIFs. I used Preview to export them to PDFs, and Adobe Acrobat to optimize by recompressing the images with ZIP (since each slide is a 640x480 image).
My notes below are in italics.
Update: I found a CD set containing session videos, those are posted at WWDC 1997 Videos.
Series 100: Mac OS
- 100: Mac OS Overview
- 101: Mac OS-Core OS Changes
- 102: Mac OS User Experience Enhancements
- 103: Mac OS User Experience Enhancements II
- 104: Apple Information Access Toolkit
- 105: Unicode in Mac OS
- 106: Color: The Mac OS Advantage
- 107: Game Sprockets
- 108: Mac OS Networking Update
- 109: Advanced Mac OS Networking & Communication
- 110: MacApp Release 13
- 111: Building Network Savvy Applications with MacApp Release 13
- 196: AppleScript Language
Series 200: Rhapsody
“Unified Release” of Rhapsody, targeted for high-end Mac users, was slated for a mid-1998 release! Also promised but never delivered: Yellow Box for classic Mac OS.
- 201: Rhapsody Core OS: Kernel and Runtime
- 202: Rhapsody Core OS: File System
- 203: Understanding Rhapsody Drivers
- 204: Mac OS Support in Rhapsody’s Blue Box
- 205: Designing Objects for Reuse and Extensibility
- 206: Intro to OOP
- 207: Intro to Foundation
- 208: OpenStep Developer API and Framework Overview
- 209: Rhapsody Text System and Localization
- 210: Rhapsody User Experience
- 211: Rhapsody Application Framework
- 212: Rhapsody Graphics
- 213: Printing Under Rhapsody
- 215: Making the Move to Rhapsody
- 216: Developing with Project Builder & Interface Builder
- 218: Cross-Platform Development with Yellow Box
- 219: OpenStep: A View from the Trenches
- 220: Rhapsody Networking APIs and Services
- 221: NetInfo
Series 300: Interactive Media
- 300: QuickTime Overview
- 302: QuickTime Imaging
- 304: Integrating QTVR into Applications & Future Directions
- 305: QuickTime for Windows
- 306: QuickDraw 3D 1.5 Overview
- 307: QuickDraw 3D Tips and Tricks
- 308: QuickTime Futures
- 309: QuickTime on the Internet
- 310: QuickTime VR Overview
- 311: QT Audio
- 312: Being QuickTime IC Savvy
Series 400: Internet and Web
- 400: Apple’s Internet and Web Technologies
- 401: Web Server Programming
- 402: Mac Internet Services
- 403: Emerging Internet Standards
- 404: MacOS Runtime for Java
Presented by Scott Forstall, Manager, Java Application Technologies
- 406: Java For C++ Programmers
- 408: WebObjects- Overview
- 409: WebObjects Frameworks
- 410: WebObjects Builder
Presented by Craig Federighi, Manager, Web/Enterprise Technology
- 412: WebObjects Client Tech
- 413: Testing WebObjects
- 413: WOF Deployment
- 414: WebObjects Biz Opps
The Objective-C “modern syntax”, a proposal which would do away with square brackets in favor of a Java-style syntax, makes a brief appearance. More information
- 417: WebObjects: A Talk with Soldiers in the Web War
- 418: Cryptography on MacOS
- 419: Foundation Classes for Java
- 420: W*API
- 421: AppleShare IP
Series 500: Hardware
Presented by Jon Rubinstein and Phil Schiller. “Hot” Products at the time were the Power Mac 6500/300, PowerBook 3400c/240, PowerMac 7300 PC Compatible, and QuickTake 200 digital camera.
- 501: Desktop Directions
- 502: PowerBook Directions
- 503: I/O Technologies
- 504: AV Technologies
- 505: MP Presentation
- 506: Server Hardware
“Licensing” in this case means the Mac clone program. Steve Jobs would effectively kill the licensing program once he became CEO in September 1997, and the products in this roadmap (Mac OS for CHRP, new CHRP logic boards) never saw public release.
Fireside Chat with Steve Jobs (captured from VHS by Jason Molenda)
This is Steve Jobs’ famous “fireside chat”, which took place on the Friday of the conference as the first part of the closing keynote. I feel it’s the single best explanation of the principles that Jobs followed in turning around Apple, and it’s always worth a re-watch. Other articles: Daring Fireball, Rands in Repose
- Closing Keynote
- In a very forward-looking move, sessions were actually live streamed and then available on demand (with RealPlayer!). Almost all of the streamed sessions were also included on the CD set that I posted videos from, and the pages can still be seen at the Internet Archive
- Apple’s WWDC 97 press release
- Pictures I’ve found of WWDC 97 shirts being sold on eBay: Presenter Shirt front back and Regular Shirt front and back
- MacTech was/is the preeminent magazine focusing on Mac development, and they maintain their full archives online! Check out their articles from 1997
- MacAddict was a fantastic magazine, and was only a few months old in 1997. The full archives are available at the Internet Archive
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