Classic environment

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Classic environment
Basic data

Maintainer Development stopped
developer Apple Computer, Inc.
Publishing year 1997
Current  version 1.9
(March 21, 2005)
operating system Rhapsody ;
Mac OS X Server  (up to 1.2v3) ;
Mac OS X  (up to 10.4) ;
Hardware platform PowerPC
License proprietary

The Classic environment ( English Classic Environment ), formerly Blue Box is one in Rhapsody / PowerPC , Mac OS X Server 1.0-1.2v3 (based Rhapsody) and Mac OS X to Mac OS X Tiger (10.4, 2005) integrated virtual Machine designed to run classic Mac OS .


From 1988 onwards, Apple endeavored to develop a modern successor operating system for the Macintosh system software . This year, System 6 was released, a Macintosh operating system based directly on “System” Version 1.0, which offered neither cooperative multitasking nor memory protection. A Unix variant for Macintosh computers called A / UX was developed together with partners . But this Apple Unix lacked the programs. It was not until 1994 that the Macintosh Application Environment (MAE) was created as a virtual System 7 environment or an emulator for the environment on incompatible hardware .

Development under Rhapsody

During the development of the new Apple operating system Rhapsody , which emerged from OPENSTEP (originally NeXTStep ) and which later emerged from Mac OS X , a virtualization environment was added to ensure compatibility with existing Mac OS applications. This program, initially known as Blue Box , was able to run Mac OS 8.1 in full screen mode under Rhapsody , on which classic Mac OS programs could be used if they did not use undocumented functions or required direct access to the hardware. Blue Box was developed from the Macintosh Application Environment (MAE) and was first included in Rhapsody 5.1 ( Developer Release  2).

The name was derived from the different application layers intended in the development: The " Blue Box " was supposed to be a compatibility layer for existing Mac OS applications, while the new programming interface (API) for future applications was developed under the name " Yellow Box " has been. Rumor has it that a layer called “ Red Box ” was also planned for Windows applications. Rhapsody was presented at WWDC 1997 including Blue Box .

Rhapsody was available both as a PowerPC and as an x86 operating system with Yellow Box as the new central programming interface, which, thanks to the preparatory work by OpenStep, had even already been ported to Windows. The Blue Box could only run on the PowerPC architecture. Allegedly, a PowerPC emulation on the x86 computer architecture would have been too complex and too slow in terms of execution speed. In 2006, however, a kind of emulation in Mac OS X / Intel was built in with Rosetta , until Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6, 2009), which made PowerPC Mac OS X program code executable on Intel processors. The Red Box would only have run on the x86 platform.

The Blue Box was continuously developed and was also included in the Rhapsody- based Power Mac server operating systems Mac OS X Server 1.0 (virtualized Mac OS 8.5.1) to 1.2 (virtualized Mac OS 8.6).

Part of Mac OS X

With the development of Mac OS X, the Yellow Box was further developed under the new name Cocoa . The Blue Box became the Classic environment and was already an integral part of the operating system with Mac OS X Public Beta (10.0, "Kodiak," 2000). While the predecessor Rhapsody was still available as an Intel and PowerPC version, Mac OS X only ran on Apple's own PowerPC platform. Initially, there were only very few applications for Mac OS X, but thanks to the Classic environment, users were still able to use the software they bought for classic Mac OS on the new operating system. For programmers, the new program library Carbon was introduced to simplify the switch from classic Mac OS to Rhapsody / Mac OS X (Cocoa) - this made programs easier to port and thus both under Mac OS (PowerPC, not 68k) and under Mac OS X natively (and thus without blue box ) executable. However, in the opinion of a developer, Carbon can only be considered finished with Mac OS X 10.2 ("Jaguar," 2002).

In order to be able to use the “ Classic Environment ” under Mac OS X, at least Mac OS 9.1 is required for virtualization . Unlike the Blue Box , which could only switch between the native desktop and the virtualized classic desktop of the Mac OS running within the Blue Box , with " Classic " the individual program windows from the virtualization are now transparently integrated into the graphic user interface of Mac OS X integrated, appear in the dock and share the common menu bar with Mac OS X. However, the required Mac OS was not part of the Classic environment and had to be purchased separately. Updates from Mac OS 9 to 9.1 through 9.2.2 are free. Some later PowerPC-based Macs included Mac OS 9.2.2 for the Classic environment as an installation package for Mac OS X.

The Classic environment cannot be used on Xserve systems.

With Mac OS X Leopard (10.5, 2007), support for the Classic environment was removed from the operating system, as there were already enough Carbon- and Cocoa-based applications. In addition, at the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006, the switch from PowerPC to Intel processors was completed. While applications for Mac OS X could be executed natively on both PowerPC and Intel using so-called universal binaries , the “ Classic Environment ” was not compatible with the x86 architecture of the Intel processors.

Emulators for Apple systems

Alternatives to the Classic environment are emulators that are not so well integrated in Mac OS X - which is called OS X from 2012 and macOS since 2016 - but offer the advantage that they can also be used on other architectures (e.g. on x86 Hardware) are executable. In addition, not only Mac OS 8 or 9 (PowerPC), but also Mac OS on m68k and Mac OS X / OS X / macOS itself can be emulated or virtualized.

Since Apple has changed the processors used several times, it is good to know the processor architecture under which the Apple operating system to be emulated can run when choosing an emulator:

On Mac OS X Leopard (10.5, 2007), on which the Classic environment is missing under PowerPC-based Macs, there is only the option (on both PowerPC and Intel) to use SheepShaver .

The following virtual machines and emulators are available for Mac OS and Mac OS X / OS X / macOS:

  • ShapeShifter, Basilisk I and Basilisk II emulate 68k-based Macs for Mac OS up to version 8.1.
  • As of System 7.1.2, Mac OS itself offers a transparent 68k emulation when it runs on PowerPC hardware.
  • The Blue Box offers virtualization under Rhapsody (PowerPC) for Mac OS version 8.1 to 8.6.
  • The Classic Environment offers virtualization under Mac OS X up to 10.4 (PowerPC) for Mac OS version 9.1 and higher.
  • SheepShaver offers emulation or virtualization of PowerPC-based Macs for Mac OS from version 7.5.2 to version 9.0.4.
  • PearPC offers an emulation of PowerPC-based Macs for Mac OS X 10.1 to 10.4.
  • Various x86 virtualizers such as Parallels Desktop , VirtualBox and VMware Fusion can virtualize Mac OS X 10.4 / Intel (Server) up to the current macOS, but this is only possible on Apple due to the license terms of Mac OS and Mac OS X / OS X / macOS -Hardware is allowed.

Both Basilisk II for 68k-based Mac OS and SheepShaver and PearPC for PowerPC-based Mac OS and Mac OS X versions run on modern hardware of the x86 architecture (Intel IA-32 ) under different operating systems ( including Linux, macOS and Windows).

Virtualizing Mac OS X / OS X / macOS is only permitted on Apple hardware. However, this clause is only valid in Germany if the customer has been informed of it before buying. In the case of store purchases, i.e. if Mac OS X / OS X / macOS is purchased as a DVD or on a USB stick in the store, this clause does not apply in Germany, because the customer can only read the license terms after unpacking from the packaging .

Individual evidence

  1. NeXTeZine 01/2003: The Rhapsody FAQ (English; page 25ff, PDF -page 28ff), David R. Shaw (PDF, 989K); NeXTeZine by Markus Schmidt and Joacim Melin
  2. Low End Mac: Red Box, Blue Box, Yellow Box (English) September 17, 1997, accessed February 1, 2015.
  3. The WWDC '97 Keynote: A Personal Account (English), Gregg Williams, May 13, 1997, accessed February 1, 2015.
  4. Rhapsody Timeline , accessed February 1, 2015.
  5. Apple: Mac OS X 10.0, Mac OS 9.0.4: Classic environment requires update to Mac OS 9.1 (or later) , accessed February 1, 2015.
  6. Apple: Mac OS X 10.2: The Classic environment requires Mac OS 9 , accessed February 1, 2015.
  7. Apple: Mac OS X: Classic environment does not start, Mac OS 9 is not installed or is not recognized , accessed on February 1, 2015: “If you are using a Power Mac G5 that came with Mac OS X 10.3.4 you can install a Mac OS 9 system folder from the CD 'Additional Software & Apple Hardware Test'. "
  8. Mac OS 9 / Classic Support , accessed February 1, 2015.