New life for the old 'Star Trek' project

An early '90s plan by Apple to port the Mac OS to Intel processors drew this response from Bill Gates: It's "like putting lipstick on a chicken."

The possibility of running the Mac operating system on Intel PCs isn't new. In his book "Apple Confidential 2.0," author Owen Linzmayer recounted a drive in the early 1990s to do the same thing--a project dubbed "Star Trek." (Indeed, the idea was initially broached as far back as 1985). The chapter, titled "The Star Trek saga," is reprinted here with permission from Linzmayer and publisher No Starch Press.

The idea of porting the Mac OS to run on Intel processors wasn't new (Dan Eilers, Apple's director of strategic investment, first proposed the idea in 1985), but it gained a renewed sense of urgency after Apple shipped System 7 in May 1991 and it failed to make headway against Microsoft Windows 3.0. Ironically, it wasn't a determined Apple engineer or insightful executive who finally got the ball rolling. That honor goes to a company that few outside of the industry have ever heard of: Novell of Provo, Utah.

Apple Confidential 2.0

Networking giant Novell wanted to provide an alternative to Windows by creating a Mac-like interface for its DR-DOS that ran on Intel-based IBM PC clones but feared getting sued by Apple (at the time, Apple's copyright infringement suit against Microsoft was still very much alive). Rather than risk an infestation of lawyers at its headquarters, Novell decided to find out whether Apple was willing to work together on such a project. On Valentine's Day 1992, Darrell Miller, Novell's VP of strategic marketing, met with several Apple software managers to reveal his company's plan. Excited by the possibilities, the Apple contingent obtained CEO John Sculley's blessing, and the two companies immediately began working together on a project that came to be called Star Trek, because it would boldly go where no Mac had gone before: the Intel platform. When Bill Gates heard of Apple's plan to put the Mac OS on an Intel machine, he responded by saying it would be "like putting lipstick on a chicken."

A group of 4 engineers from Novell and 14 from Apple was put together by Gifford Calenda in suite 400 of a Novell marketing office called Regency One in Santa Clara, directly across the street from Intel's headquarters. That was no accident. Sculley had met with Intel CEO Andy Grove, who agreed to help the Star Trek project because, ever paranoid, he didn't want to be so dependent on Microsoft. Each Star Trek engineer was given an office with a Mac and a 486 PC clone donated by Intel.

On July 17, the Trekkie team was given until Halloween to come up with a working "proof of concept." As an indication of the importance

Featured Video