The NeXT Workstation
A NeXT workstation, 1991. Slab model (as in the movie, 2001; there was also
a "cube" model). Barely visible is the Columbia signon graphic. The NeXT
was one of the early attempts (but by no means the first) attempt to put a
friendly GUI face on UNIX to make it more accessible to the masses (or,
conversely, to put a real operating system behind a GUI rather than the
disaster that was Windows). The company was founded by Steve Jobs during
has absence from Apple; this workstation was to be the "next" hot item after
the Macintosh: a Macintosh-like system that emobodied concepts such as
memory protection, multiprocessing, multiple users, and security that were
absent from the pre-OSX Mac. It was marketed heavily to universities, who
snapped it up in vast quantities, but not vast enough to keep the company
Although the NeXT was not particularly fast, it had a lightning-fast
PostScript interpreter because its display was, in fact, Display PostScript
(not X). This made the NeXT the ultimate PostScript previewer.
Initially NeXTs were monochrome, but color models soon followed. NeXTs were
installed in all Watson Lab offices in the early-to-mid 1990s, as well as in
many of Columbia's public labs and in the CU Libraries. The entire
population of NeXTs was tied in to our central identify, file, and mail
systems and administered centrally by just a handful of people (actually
more like one person).
Unfortunately, NeXTs were not built to last; the disks and monitors began to
give out after several years; as far as I know, none survive at Columbia.
Image: Scanned from a slightly torn shapshot by Rob Cartolano. A Google
image search doesn't turn up any better pictures of Slab-model NeXT.
Frank da Cruz / email@example.com /
Columbia University Computing History / Jan 2001,
revised May 2011.