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 Post subject: Windows 95/NT4, Nextstart And The Nextstep/Openstep OS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:11 pm 
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Having come across a couple of recent (-ish) posts by Mr. Winstep himself on the history of Winstep, I felt folks might like to know a bit more about the background to the whole thing and so here we go, me having been one of the very first people to become involved with what was then the Nextstart project, joining as a committed beta tester even before that first release of Nextstart 1. Like those two splendid guys Jorge Coelho and John T. Folden, I too was keen on regaining some of the functionality (and looks) of the Nextstep OS under Windows NT4, which I was then also running on a PC, supplemented by Openstep Enterprise For Windows NT (an Openstep sub-set for NT that allowed the running of most of the applications available under that OS, as well as providing a complete Openstep developer environment).

By a judicious use of Google, anyone can check out the history of Nextstep and Next themselves. Suffice it then to say here that Next was the computer company founded by Steve Jobs after he was kicked out of the Dark Side, or Apple, around 1987. (Jobs and Next then came to the rescue of the fatally ailing Apple by effectively taking it over in 1996, and in the process eventually selling out Next and Openstep users.) Next computers and their OS appeared in 1988, and the hardware was made until 1993. The h/w was based on the Motorola 68k architecture, like at that time e.g. the Amiga and the Mac. The OS was a sensation with its unarguably most attractive GUI appearance, big resolution screens, and its ease of use, ergonomics and power. (I ran Next boxes myself between ~89 and as late as ~02/3, alongside my Amigas, all networked together.)

The GUI that inspired the Winstep project consisted, essentially, of three main elements. The most eye-catching of these was the dock, aligned vertically to the top right hand corner of the screen, offset from the right edge by 3 pixels. This dock consisted of grey 64 pixel square tiles that accommodated the most eye-catching 48 pixel icons (many produced from photographs). The topmost tile and the second one were fixed, i.e., they could not be changed. The former had as its icon the Next Cube logo and gave access to the File Viewer and various system settings. The latter carried the digital clock-cum-calendar icon which gave access to time and locality settings. More tiles could be added to this with links to applications.

Furthermore, any docked apps that were running showed that state with three little dots in the bottom left of their tile. Non-docked apps that were running were displayed left-to-right at the bottom of the screen on tiles, as were any minimised document windows*, by the dock. Also at the bottom edge and directly under the vertical part of the dock sat the iconic recycler tile (also part of the dock) with its animated icon.

The next most prominent part of the GUI was the (vertical) workspace menu, which would change to that relevant to the app having focus. This was the inspiration for the Nextstart menus.

Finally, the third aspect of the GUI was the File Viewer – a file manager that provided the fastest way of navigating the file system, network file systems, and more.

Now, many, or even most, Windows users are not aware of this, but when Microsoft designed the Win95/NT4 GUI (which, albeit in altered form, persists to this day with Win10) they licensed the Next dock from Next, and its code became transformed into the Start menu and Taskbar. Exact same thing in principle, just a radically different appearance and slightly altered and more limited functionality. Think of the start menu as a shelf – right, you get the idea. Even the titlebar gadgets of windows were inspired by those of Next, as were – and still are – many of the system’s icons. (There are many other aspects of Windows internals that were ‘inspired’ by Next.)

So, there were our Jorge and John T., running Win95 or NT4 and lusting after the appearance and functionality of Next/Openstep, and thus Nextstart and the Winstep project were born. I don’t remember exactly how I came across Jorge and John, but I came onboard prenatally, so to speak, as did a handful of others. That handful soon grew, and the very primitive, proof-of-point NS 1 quickly became a very useful menu system that you could skin almost to your heart’s content. And quite soon the shelf started coming along, inspired by an ‘Experimental User Interface’ (EUI) that Next had used in a beta of Openstep 4.1 where the dock had been transformed into a shelf.

Personally, I still like the look of old NS/OS and think it still is the best designed GUI so far, and so I’m generally happy enough running Winstep with an old NS/OS theme of mine (which I need to update, desperately!) Attractive without being intrusive or distracting. But that’s just me and my way of working and thinking.  The main thing, to me anyway, is the functionality that Winstep offers. And it’s never been needed more than with Win10!

* Next/Openstep operated under a different paradigm to e.g. Windows, first of all in that there was no Desktop on which objects could be placed but had instead a 'Workspace'which was overlayed with the GUI and apps. Secondly, apps generally consisted of a main interface window (often additional tool etc. windows) and separate doc(ument) windows. Thus e.g. TIFFany (the NS/OS analogue of Photoshop, only vastly superior at the time) would have a small main app window, a window or windows with things like palette etc., and a window or windows with the actual image/s being worked on - these latter were document windows.

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nexter - so, what's next?


Last edited by nexter on Sat Apr 14, 2018 4:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows 95/NT4, Nextstart And The Nextstep/Openstep OS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:09 pm 
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NeXTSTEP:

Image

OpenStep:

Image

And NextSTART + WorkShelf emulating NeXTSTEP/OpenStep in Windows (circa 1999-2000):

Image

Note that the dock in the screenshot above is not a real dock but a collection of NextSTART hotspot buttons. Nexus would only make an appearance much later, around 2009.

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http://www.winstep.net - Winstep Software Technologies


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 Post subject: Re: Windows 95/NT4, Nextstart And The Nextstep/Openstep OS
PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:05 pm 
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winstep wrote:
NeXTSTEP:

Hey, that first ('Nextstep') screenshot must be one of my own old ones off one of my boxes, Jorge! :) (Though it looks like an original, non-gamma-corrected one if I'm not mistaken.) But it would actually have been running Openstep 4.1 or 4.2 (probably the latter), after Nextstep 3.3 the OS was renamed Openstep as by then a sub-set for Windows NT and SunOS/Solaris had been developed, called Openstep Enterprise, which allowed the running of most NS/OS apps etc.
The GUI did not change between NS3.3 and OS4.x.
The one shown in the second screenshot was actually of the OS EUI mentioned in my post, but this was only part of a beta version and never 'productised'. (The shot is also too dark as it isn't gamma corrected. Can't remember the exact amount of correction needed but I'm sure I've got it in a file somewhere.)
Ah, those were the days....

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 Post subject: Re: Windows 95/NT4, Nextstart And The Nextstep/Openstep OS
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:28 am 
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Ack!Teal fake marble. The humanity! And to think that was a GOOD background compared to some other choices.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows 95/NT4, Nextstart And The Nextstep/Openstep OS
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:21 am 
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Come on, Paul, back then NeXT was already featuring 48x48 256 color icons while Windows was still stuck (and would remain so for a very long time) with 32x32 16 color icons lol

You also had to be VERY careful with what your applications did, or you would quickly run out of USER and GDI handles in Win9x, even if you still had a 'ton' of available memory.

Things were very different then, and NeXT was far ahead of its time. For the day, that OS was bloody GORGEOUS, fake marble included. Thanks to Steve Jobs aesthetics, of course.

Btw, Ric, when Googling for those screenshots I actually saw what seemed to be NextSTART and WorkShelf emulating OpenStep on Windows described as the real thing, lol. The little NextSTART hotspot button in the corner gave it away.

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Winstep Xtreme - Xtreme Power!
http://www.winstep.net - Winstep Software Technologies


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 Post subject: Re: Windows 95/NT4, Nextstart And The Nextstep/Openstep OS
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:09 pm 
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winstep wrote:
Come on, Paul, back then NeXT was already featuring 48x48 256 color icons while Windows was still stuck (and would remain so for a very long time) with 32x32 16 color icons lol

Actually, the original NeXT icons are mostly true colour, IIRC (I'll have to check my originals sometime) but of course for other OSs had to be toned down to 256 colour. And they were around since 1988! Before Win95 and NT4 icons were only 8 colour ISTR? Whatever, they were horrid. Win95/NT4 at last brought 256 colour icons.
winstep wrote:
You also had to be VERY careful with what your applications did, or you would quickly run out of USER and GDI handles in Win9x, even if you still had a 'ton' of available memory.

Not really a problem with NT4, but then that was a proper 32-bit OS, while Win9x was a 32 bit GUI sitting on a 16/8bit OS (DOS). Mind you, even NT3.5x was problematic, and we had to wait till 96 for NT4. :/
winstep wrote:
Things were very different then, and NeXT was far ahead of its time. For the day, that OS was bloody GORGEOUS, fake marble included. Thanks to Steve Jobs aesthetics, of course.

Lightyears ahead of PCs, esp. those running DOS and Win, which in 88 was quite unusable. Both in hardware and OS etc. The Motorola 68020/030s were way faster than the Intel 286/386 for a start. Also, you had 32bit GFX cards for Next, and RAM was typically 32-64MB when PCs were lucky to have 4MB or more. However, all this came at quite a price. Even a basic Next Slab (pizza box, ltd. expansion) with its 17" monitor would have set you back about 10K quid in 88. (I was very lucky that a certain organisation bought too much Next hardware and offloaded it for nothing to some contractors and employees, and thus I got my Cube and Slab and Tower - all maxed out - for less than PC prices about 89-90.)
Also, to be fair, Next was squarely aimed at the advanced workstation market, competing with the likes of SGI, Sun, and Dec. Not something that PCs could even dream of between 88 and 93 (The period when Next produced hardware - after 93, it was software only and the OS, now Openstep, became available for Intel PC, SunOS (a more comprehensive implementation than Openstep Enterprise for NT that gave the full Next GUI as Window Manager and ran both Next and native SunOS apps.) Hell, at that time the Amiga was also running rings around Intel PCs - basically same hardware as Next but with some very fancy custom additions, also like Next a fully 32bit OS that could handle up to 4GB of RAM, etc. Heck, my 060 Amiga 3000 and 4000 were still way faster than the fastest 1st gen Pentiums about the mid/late 90s, and even my 030 A1500 and 040 A1200 didn't compare too badly. Really, what it comes down to is that Next and Intel/Win PC hardly make for a fair comparison, it's really comparing oranges with wurzels.
winstep wrote:
Btw, Ric, when Googling for those screenshots I actually saw what seemed to be NextSTART and WorkShelf emulating OpenStep on Windows described as the real thing, lol. The little NextSTART hotspot button in the corner gave it away.

LOL! Well,yes Jorge, quite easy to give the impression of NS/OS with Winstep - which after all was the original intention. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Windows 95/NT4, Nextstart And The Nextstep/Openstep OS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 6:38 pm 
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nexter wrote:
winstep wrote:
Come on, Paul, back then NeXT was already featuring 48x48 256 color icons while Windows was still stuck (and would remain so for a very long time) with 32x32 16 color icons lol

nexter wrote:
Actually, the original NeXT icons are mostly true colour, IIRC (I'll have to check my originals sometime) but of course for other OSs had to be toned down to 256 colour. And they were around since 1988! Before Win95 and NT4 icons were only 8 colour ISTR? Whatever, they were horrid. Win95/NT4 at last brought 256 colour icons.

Found my original Nextstep (.tiff) icons. And indeed, almost all are 24bit truecolour. (Major exception of course the ones for Openstep Enterprise for NT and Solaris.)

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