It’s been 9 years! Pt. 1

Ulysses Mockup 2002
The mockup that started it all, summer 2002

Nine years ago, early 2003, I posted on the macnn forums, asking for beta testers for a new kind of writing application for Mac OS X. On June 1st of that year, we released Ulysses 1.0.

Let’s try and put that in context, shall we? :)

In 2003 the G4 was all the rage. Every Apple product sported that processor, from the white iBooks to the “Quicksilver” PowerMacs. Intel was a sticker on other people’s notebooks, and was supposed to *never* be inside a machine from Cupertino. iMacs looked like perverted versions of the Pixar lamp, and the PowerBooks just went to 17″ within an aluminum body.

People were still using clamshell iBooks – a mere 800×600 px of screen real estate, which is less than what run-off-the-mill telephones offer today.

The Safari web browser had just entered public beta (Internet Explorer X, yay), and Apple had just opened the doors to its iTunes Music Store. iPods were operated via click-wheels, and Mac OS X was at version 10.2, Jaguar; users were supposed to reserve theater tickets online via an app named “Sherlock”.

There was no Exposé, no Xcode, no Spotlight, no Dashboard. There was no built-in, system-wide dictionary, no iCal, no QuickLook. There was no unified sidebar, let alone any sort of broad unification regarding the UI, with brushed metal all over the place and a vibrant theming community trying to win a resource-war.

There was no Facebook, let alone Twitter, and there was no WordPress either. Google Docs? John Gruber’s Markdown? Nope. Dropbox? Nooooooo…

The developer community we encountered was largely one of old school Mac programmers, who had already gone from 68xxx to PowerPC and just now came to grips with ditching OS 9. It was a nice bunch, a bit family-like, and I fondly remember subscribing to Apple’s official mailing lists and discussing the pros and cons of localized forums for non-english devs.

It’s been nine years.
Everything has changed.

My current iMac is powered by a multi-core Intel i7 running at 2.9 GHz. It boots in a little under 10 seconds, and that’s last years’ model. The current version of OS X (Lion) looks, feels and behaves so differently from 10.2, 10.4 even, that it’s like a different system altogether.

The least common denominator capable of running the beast is a MacBook with a screen of 1280×800 px — that’s twice the amount of that clamshell iBook.

The web is everywhere now, and we store huge chunks of our data online. Cloud-aware apps automatically sync our various devices, with so-called “smart” phones being no less than hyper-mobile supercomputers which also happen to allow voice chat.

Apps have somehow managed to transform from (however slick) data-manipulation programs to aesthetically pleasing design objects. Some of the best graphic designers now work on interfaces, and there’s a whole generation of young, talented artists and coders willing to embrace and push forward the status quo.

Users’ expectations also have dramatically changed. From prices to feature set to interoperability, connectivity and “post-processing” of any given output. It’s almost been a 180 degrees turn from the beginning of this century: Music, photos, videos and texts (games even) are all being distributed digitally now, and everybody can publish everything, at any time, anywhere… and does so.

And who but the nerdiest of nerds would have thought that today we all pretty much run a Unix-based system that *completely* hides its underlying complexity. No visible file system, no documents, no extensions to worry about, just tasks at hand – literally, with touch becoming the predominant input method. Of course, I’m talking iPad here, but we all know where this is going…

Last not least, developing for Apple’s platforms has turned from nice, friendly niche to a multi-million dollar opportunity for venture capitalists and indie devs alike. The App Store shook up the industry, and we dare only imagine what the landscape will be like in another nine years’ time.

Yeah, it has been *nine* years.
And everything has changed.

Ulysses? Not so much.
To be continued…

6 Responses to “It’s been 9 years! Pt. 1”

  1. Sebastian says:

    Great post.
    I was a little late to the show, my first Mac was a Mac Mini in 2005 – since then I didn’t look back. Ulysses was one of my first Mac apps I bought apart from the Apple stuff (iWork, iLife…) – it’s still in use (I even bought it a second time when it was published on the MAS). Now, that’s commitment, eh?


  2. Oleg says:

    Great read and great product! :) Continue rocking, guys!

  3. Niklas says:

    Gee, I’m feeling so old…

  4. Congratulations, guys, and here’s to the *next* nine years.

  5. [...] скорее всего уже слышали про Ulysses. Эта программа имеет почти 10-летнюю историю, но всегда уступала по обаянию и возможностям своим [...]