[NTLK] write to Tim Cook

Andrei Chichak newton at chichak.ca
Fri Dec 2 11:40:56 EST 2011

On 2011-December-02, at 7:56 AM, Nic Malone wrote:

> Apple made OS 7 available from their website for use without a licence a few years ago. So why not Newton OS?

This is a very different situation. With OS7, you get a runnable version, very much like what you get in the ROM of your Newton. With the Newton, you can download the updates that will bring it up to date to the day that it was deleted. You are asking for Apple to give you the source code for the Newton. 

Just as a technical aside for those that say "SO?". Computer source code has been said by many to be one of the most complex things that people have ever done. So, let's look at what this "source code" is. Source code is the human readable instructions that are given to a computer to execute to do their bidding.

Computers can execute the source code and do what it says directly, this would be languages like APL and BASIC. They interpret the program lines that get typed in by humans. With other languages like C, the puny humans take their source code lines and run them through a program called a compiler and convert them into machine code. Machine code runs very quickly since it is in the native tongue of the processor, whereas source code is in the native tongue of the humans. 

Newton uses something close to machine code, it translates source code into an intermediate form, much like Java does, but it still isn't what the humans wrote. The low level programming of Newton operating system are written in C, source code converted to machine code. Translating the machine code back into source code, decompilation, is extremely difficult to do, as is rewriting a large, complex, system from its function without the source code.

Now, back to the OS7 argument, you got the compiled machine code, not the source code. The machine code does not give you, as a human, much insight into how they got that bundle of chips  to act like a Macintosh, it just lets you run your hardware, not extend it.

As one of those puny humans who write source code, nobody is going to hand over their commercial source code without compensation. Source code represents many man years of effort that is very difficult for competitors to duplicate. If Apple handed over the source code, you could be sure that some large corporation would take it, reproduce the hardware (much easier), and bring out the next version Newton for their own profit. Handing over the source code would cut years off of the development time, making an expensive, marginal project into a lower exposure possibility. Apple would be stupid to play into that situation.


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