by Timothy R. Butler
On the surface, Mac OS X presents a friendly and graphically driven interface that takes many cues from its 1990s-era predecessor, now known as Mac OS Classic. Traditionally, this graphical user interface (GUI) was the only way you would interact with a Mac. This changed with the introduction of Mac OS X in 2000. Underneath its tame-looking exterior, Mac OS X descends from a long line of resilient, capable operating systems, known as Unix, that are very capable of complex server operations far beyond what the average desktop computer will ever do.
Few desktop users aspire to turn their computers into servers, but Unix is useful for much more than that, even in today's GUI-oriented environments. As you see in this chapter, you can use many traditional Unix tools for everyday tasks.
To understand the value of Unix, it first helps to understand where Unix comes from. The heritage of Unix goes back significantly farther than either the Mac OS Classic operating system that powered most Macs from 1983 until 2001 or the Microsoft Windows operating system that powers most PCs. While relatively unknown until recent times to the average computer user, Unix reaches back to the days before the average person could even own a computer and, because of this rich heritage, offers a consistent and ...