A eulogy for the Mac's Open Transport API

A eulogy for the Mac's Open Transport API

Summary: With the arrival of each new version of the Mac's OS, various APIs depart. Now with OS X Mavericks, it's time for Open Transport to go.


Bits and pieces of longstanding Mac APIs are finding their way out of OS X and into code repositories of history. One of the latest, with the introduction of OS X Mavericks, is Open Transport.

Developer Brent Simmons pointed out the loss in a post on his Inessential blog. Open Transport was included in OS X through version 10.8.

I admit that I was astounded that Open Transport still remained in the OS. It's been around since System 7 in the classic Mac days.

Newcomers to Macs or Windows systems have no clue about how networking was implemented back in the days. Nowadays, we have easy switching between various wireless and wired networking hardware and protocols and we take this for granted. It was so much harder back then, for users, developers and networking vendors.

For example, Open Transport let Mac users change networks or even settings without restarting the computer. Restarting, that's right. The user interface let users store various configurations and switch between them. Magic.

Here's a bit of the flavor of those times. It's from the MacInTouch column by Ric Ford in the April 15, 1996 issue of MacWEEK, titled "Open Transport is friendly, but splits Mac family:"

Apple does not support classic networking on PCI Power Macs, and it is not clear if some variation on the original MacTCP work-around for these models is still viable. Apple's Network Software Selector, the utility for switching between classic and Open Transport networking, is a little strange. It switches to Open Transport networking by disabling the MacTCP and Network control panels and making them invisible. The files remain in the Control Panels folder, however, for switching back. (Apple puts Network Software Selector in an Apple Extras folder instead of more conveniently in Apple Menu Items or Control Panels.)

In addition, Simmons said a number of other familiar frameworks are being depreciated.

Newly-deprecated: InstantMessage.framework, Quicktime.framework, QTKit.framework. (Superseded by Social.framework and AVKit and AVFoundation.)

Topics: Apple, Networking, Operating Systems, Software Development

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  • Open Transport...

    ...I do remember AppleTalk when it comes to two Macs sharing the same printer. That is at Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, FL, most notably the library and the dorm (McWilliams) around 2001-2002.
    Grayson Peddie
    • AppleTalk & LocalTalk go back a lot further than 2001 ...

      ... I used LocalTalk on the first Macs (128k machines) back in 1984. We had a pretty extensive network at UNH then with an ethernet backbone that bridged LocalTalk segments. I seem to recall that LocalTalk had a ridiculously low max node count -- something like 32, total. Then that got upped to 256 nodes then we got AppleTalk zones that allowed us to scale all the way to a theoretical 65,000 ... but in practice it never worked that well in large environments, and it was still slow as can be with 256kbps transfer speeds.

      But, again, for it's day, it was pretty darn cutting edge with true plug and play simplicity and self-discovery between devices. And it helped make networking what it is today.
  • Open Transport was a breakthrough

    Back before Open Transport came out, changing network settings had been a rebootable offense, and if memory serves, it continued to be so on Windows machines for some time to come.

    The nice thing about OT was that it made the network stack more transparent and extensible, allowing users to run different protocols more seamlessly, instead of having to have a bunch of different control panels and extensions to enable each -- which often resulted in conflicts and crashes.

    OT wasn't the fastest networking stack around, but it was pretty cutting edge at the time and made Macs easily networkable in any environment.
  • I would think...

    Quicktime.framework going away to be greater news :)