What happened to NeXT?

Besides becoming a part of Apple, I mean.

For a while in the 1980s, NeXT, with its advanced microkernel design and beautifully constructed GUI, was a seperate entity from Apple. It still used a proprietary hardware system (along with such major players as Amiga and Be (Be eventually ported to PC hardware, however)) but the OS was UNIX-like (reminiscent of BeOS at the time and MacOS X now) and generally years ahead of its time.

So, what killed it? Be died when it didn’t get its shit together with the Internet soon enough. The Amiga generally floundered because it was an oddball hardware system in a market that could barely support two hardware systems (Apple and PC). Why isn’t NeXT in competition with Apple as we speak?

Apple spent its last remaining cash to buy Next Inc., which put Jobs back at the helm.

What Urban Ranger said. But also NeXT used Unix or a Unix clone and that is still a bit daunting for most people. For example, the contortions you had to go through to copy a file to or from a floppy disk were one of the things that defeated me. But mainly people had got used to certain software and there were no Unix clones available and that was enough. Note that MS could destroy Apple if it ceased making Office available for it. But, antitrust problems aside, MS has no reason to do so, since they are selling only the software (at least until X-Box came along, but they are still not selling Windows hardware).

As I recall, Jobs made an incredibly stupid decision with the original NeXT box, and didn’t include a floppy drive with it. This may not sound like that big a deal today, but back then floppies were ubiquitous. People were still backing up computers on floppy, and all software came on floppy disks. Not having one in an expensive computer was a real head-scratcher.

And, it was proprietary, complex, and it’s advantages were only recognized by techies. The general public couldn’t care less about microKernel architectures. They just wanted to do things with their computers. And there was little to do with a NeXT.

NeXT boxes, even after they started switching over to more commodity level components, were insanely expensive. Yes, they had cool technology, but not cool enough to justify the cost. I recall at one point the cheapest, most stripped down next cube with a monitor & printer went for something over $15,000. I think they came down to the $5,000 range, but that was a case of too little, too late.

It wasn’t the lack of a floppy in the begining - it was the fact that they didn’t even have hard drives - the whole system was supposed to run off of a painfully slow optical drive. I think that was only the first generation though, and they learned that lesson fairly quickly.

Oh, and they didn’t have color for a long time.

I’m trying to remember if they had sound, either, or if that was a third party add-on.

Basically, it was a cool machine with some rather odd design decisions made that limited its usefulness. Combine that with a big price tag and you’ve got problems that not even a good marketing department (which they didn’t really have) can overcome.

I remember a friend of mine buying a NeXT for just under what I paid for my first new car (I bought a low-end Honda.) It had no floppy. Even in America, who has that kind of money to throw away on so little?

The original NeXT boxes had sound. I was next to the office of a guy that had one. Errrrr.

Apple actually has a pretty decent amount of cash on hand. The flow is not all that great but the reserves are good.

Wow. I knew the NeXT was odd, but that stuff is downright bizarre. Was Steven Jobs the Nikola Tesla of the desktop machine or what? (Nikola Tesla in the sense of having some good ideas, some great ideas too far ahead of their time to ever succeed, but a fair amount of general crackpottery.)

How was the optical hard drive expected to work? Was it a very expensive ROM system based on fledgling CD-ROM technology or something different? How was it to handle local data storage? (Don’t tell me there are NeXT tape cassettes lying around somewhere.)

Here’s is the hardware configuration of the NeXT Cube. As you can see, it did have a HDD.

Urban Ranger: It also had an optical drive a good decade before anyone was seriously publishing CD-ROMs. I realize that laserdiscs were available around that general timeframe, but I only recall them having been used as a multimedia storage medium, like a VHS with a random-access ability. Was this drive removable or fixed? What was its purpose?

I’m going to do a bit of research now, focusing on figuring out what the holy heck the NeXT was doing with something that sounds like a CD-ROM drive in the mid-1980s.

Very interesting. The `optical drive’ was actually a magneto-optical drive that was very esoteric technology in its own time (and is still unusual today, in keeping with the general tone of the NeXT computer system). As has been stated, it was very slow and very expensive. It was also prone to massive dust buildups.

http://www.channelu.com/NeXT/Black/N3000/N3000_1.html – Google’s only really relevant link.