The Origins of Objective-C at PPI/Stepstone and its Evolution at NeXT
The roots of Objective-C began at ITT in the early 1980s in a research group led by Tom Love investigating improving programmer productivity by an order of magnitude, a concern motivated by the perceived “software crisis” articulated in the late 1960s. Brad Cox, a member of this group, began to investigate Smalltalk and object-oriented programming for this purpose, but needed a language compatible with the Unix and C environments used by ITT. Cox quickly wrote up the Object-Oriented Pre-Compiler (OOPC) that would translate a Smalltalk-like syntax into C.
Love felt there was a market for object-oriented solutions that could coexist with legacy languages and platforms, and after a brief stint at Schlumberger-Doll, co-founded with Cox Productivity Products International (PPI), later Stepstone, to pursue this. At PPI, Cox developed OOPC into Objective-C. Cox saw Objective-C as a crucial link in his larger vision of creating a market for “pre-fabricated” software components (“software-ICs”), which could be bought off the shelf and which, Cox believed, would unleash a “software industrial revolution.”
Steve Naroff joined Stepstone in 1986 as Steve Jobs’ NeXT Computer became an important customer for Objective-C, as it was being used in its NeXTSTEP operating system. Naroff became the primary Stepstone developer addressing NeXT’s issues with Objective-C, solving a key fragility problem preventing NeXT from deploying forwards-compatible object libraries. Impressed with NeXT, Naroff left Stepstone for NeXT in 1988, and once there, added Objective-C support to Richard Stallman’s GNU GCC compiler, which NeXT was using as its C compiler, removing the need to use Stepstone’s ObjC to C translator. Over the next several years, Naroff and others would add significant new features to Objective-C, such as “categories,” “protocols,” and the ability to mix in C++ code. When Stepstone folded in 1994, all rights to Objective-C were acquired by NeXT. This eventually transferred to Apple when NeXT was acquired by Apple in 1997. Objective-C became the basis for Apple’s Mac OS X and and then iOS platforms, and Naroff and others at Apple added additional features to the language in the late 2000s as the iPhone App Store greatly expanded Objective-C’s user base.
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|The Origins of Objective-C at PPI/Stepstone and its Evolution at NeXT