Throwback Thursday: Codename "Gravy"?
Blackbird. Pismo. Lombard. Columbus. Cold Fusion. These are just a few of the cool-sounding code names Apple would use to refer to products it was developing. In most cases, these code names were only used internally, but sometimes they would actually be used to market the finished products. With Mac OS X, Apple's big cat code names ultimately became the actual product names. Here at Accordance, we were never so big or clandestine that we felt it necessary to assign code names to new versions of the software, but when we were developing Accordance 5, I joked that we should start using the code name "Gravy."
In previous Throwback Thursday posts, I've detailed the development of Accordance from a specialized Greek and Hebrew language tool (version 1.0) to a more well-rounded Bible program offering a variety of study aids (version 2.0) to a full-featured Bible program which included Bible texts with Strong's numbers (version 4.0). Until Accordance 4.0 was released, we were working hard to add must-have features that the average Bible software user had come to expect (along with many groundbreaking new features no one had ever attempted before). When we began planning the feature set for Accordance 5.0, we were really in uncharted territory: rather than adding "must-have" features our users had been asking for, we were primarily adding extra features and interface enhancements which went beyond what anyone was expecting. Hence my suggestion of the code name "Gravy."
I look back now and realize how naive I was. Accordance 5.0 turned out to be a huge upgrade that added lots of “gravy” type features, but it happened to be released at a time when everything was changing, and we soon found ourselves chasing a new set of “must-have” enhancements. Such is the nature of software development.
Shortly after we began the development of Accordance 5, Apple unveiled its strategy for getting classic Mac OS developers to make their software compatible with Mac OS X. We weren’t thrilled at the prospect of having to rewrite portions of our software to support a new operating system that was still very much in flux, but we committed one of our programmers to making Accordance OS X-compatible (a process known as “Carbonization”). Meanwhile, our lead programmer continued to add the new features and interface changes we had planned for Accordance 5.
Accordance 5.0 was released in July of 2001, a few months after the very first version of Mac OS X (Cheetah). Our efforts to Carbonize Accordance were not yet finished at that point, so we still only supported the older Mac OS. We weren’t alone, however. Very few classic Mac apps had been Carbonized at that time, and Mac OS X was still so new that very few Mac users had transitioned to it. Those few OS X early adopters knew they would have to wait for their favorite apps to become Carbonized, and since Mac OS X provided a way to run classic Mac apps, they were able to get along just fine in the interim.
A year later, the situation was very different. In that year Apple had released OS X 10.1 (Puma), which added much-needed stability, and 10.2 (Jaguar), which was the first version usable enough to encourage widespread adoption. Calls for an OS X version of Accordance got louder and more frequent as soon as Jaguar was released. Accordance 5.6 Carbon was released in October of 2002, just two months later. This meant that Accordance was the first Bible program released for Mac OS X.
Our relatively early support for Apple’s next-generation operating system proved to be a huge competitive advantage, which led many users to switch from older Mac Bible programs that appeared to be languishing. However, the transition to a new (and changing) operating system meant more than just making sure Accordance ran natively. It meant adjusting to new interface conventions, adopting new technologies, supporting new features of the operating system, etc. In other words, there would be no more “gravy” releases.
In my next Throwback Thursday post, I’ll talk about how some of the very improvements we made to Accordance 5 actually became liabilities under OS X, forcing us to make major changes to the interface of Accordance 6.