May 3, 1984: Mac System 1.1 Released

by Chris Seibold May 03, 2011

There were a plethora of things to dislike about the Mac when it first appeared. Severely limited memory, no expansion options, a positive dearth of software, etc. Even with all the deficiencies, the thing that many early adopters hated the most fervently was "disk swappers’ elbow." This occurred when users tried to copy the contents of one disk to another floppy, a task that sometimes required up to 30 disk swaps instead of the planned five or six.

It wasn't, as many imagine, an example of incredibly bad programming. Rather, "disk swappers’ elbow" was caused by inexpert mousing. The programmers, knowing they had limited memory to work with, designed the disk swap protocol to dump everything out of the Mac's memory during the copying process. This resulted in a reasonable amount of swaps to copy a diskette fully. The problem arose when users dropped the icon while dragging the disk to be copied. Everything that had been dumped to free up memory was allowed back into the system, gobbling up resources, resulting in the multiple swap scenario.

Apple fixed this problem, and a few others, when it released its first system update: System 1.1 this week in 1984. Incidentally, the point upgrade did not cost $129.


  • Uh, the article here describes the problem of “disk swapper’s elbow” as not being “an example of incredibly bad programming”.

    This might lead some to think that the problem was not caused by a coding error.

    While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was “incredibly bad programming” Andy Hertzfeld’s story about it on clearly describes it as a bug.

    soft_guy had this to say on May 03, 2006 Posts: 21
  • I’ve always thought of it as “disk wrist.”

    pecosbill had this to say on May 04, 2006 Posts: 12
  • Why are people so touchy about having to pay to go from 10.2 to 10.3 to 10.4. Sure they’re ‘point’ releases, but in name only. As evidenced by the fact that, eg, 10.4.5 to 10.4.6 is free. It’s just cos Apple keep the 10 there to show that it’s Mac OS X rather than a classic version.

    eiscir had this to say on May 05, 2006 Posts: 23
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