Mac Developers

David Johnson david at
Tue Aug 27 03:13:37 UTC 2002

On Monday 26 August 2002 05:55 pm, Steve Mallett wrote:
> Sure, this is a bit off-topic..
> With all the hub-bub surrounding OS X these days I note and ask:
> There are largely few open source mac apps.
> What has or hasn't happened here?

Every platform has its own custom with regards to writing and distributing 
software. I believe that these differences are largely due to the compiler.

First, since day one virtually every UNIX and unix-like system installed a 
compiler by default. Windows and Mac never did this. Thus, source code was 
ubiquitous on UNIX, but an arcane mystery to Windows and Mac users. UNIX 
users were distributing software in a quasi open source way long before RMS 
nailed his manifesto to the cathedral door. To a Windows or pre-OSX Mac user, 
this was unheard of. All my Windows friends today that think I'm stupid for 
not distributing my stuff as shareware. All my UNIX friends never give it a 
second thought.

The exception that proves the rule: DOS. DOS was traditionally installed with 
a BASIC interpreter. Back in the eighties, it was common to see BASIC 
programs distributed in a quasi open source way. In fact, the first time I 
ever saw the GPL license was attached to a game written in BASIC.

Under Windows you have to pay to get a compiler. Until recently, the same 
thing applied for Macintosh. So you either used shareware to try and recoup 
the cost, or your realized that 99.99% of your users didn't have compilers, 
and never bothered distributing it with your freeware binary anyway.

This might change under OSX, since it now has gcc as its standard compiler. 
But two things still stand in the way. First, the culture has already been 
established, and cultures are hard to change. Second, the compiler still 
isn't installed by default, and it isn't even (IIRC) on the install CD.

David Johnson
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