Apple QuickTime turns 20 – Happy birthday

By on January 4, 2012
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As QuickTime turns 20 it loses some of its magic.

Apple’s QuickTime technology has just turned 20 years old. Apparently it was on December 2 in 1991 that Apple released the first version of QuickTime. On Wikipedia QuickTime is described as an “extensible proprietary multimedia framework developed by Apple Inc., capable of handling various formats of digital video, picture, sound, panoramic images, and interactivity.” Basically it’s a collection of technologies, now a part of Mac OS X, that handles video and other types of multimedia content.

I bet you that you’ve used QuickTime at some point or another, even if you’re a Windows user. If you happen to be a Mac user, you probably use parts of QuickTime on an everyday basis, without even realizing.

Imagine 160×120 pixels, 10 fps

I was actually running QuickTime from very early on, as I was lucky enough to have a preview CD shipped to me by Apple. The CD contained hundreds of movies, lots of utilities, sample code, and much more. Even a video of say 160×120 pixels and 10 fps was amazing then, and many of my friends were mightily impressed of what my Mac could accomplish.

I still have a very definite favorite QuickTime movie from those early days. The speaker voice says that the power of the Macintosh Quadra the computer is advertising “will take your breath away.” It continues: “but what makes this technology so revolutionary is what it runs on: Your imagination.” And the video you were watching zooms out to reveal that you were in fact watching a small QuickTime movie on the display of a Quadra.

Although I actually had a Quadra at the time I remember the video more because of QuickTime than because of the Mac. On that Quadra, which had a 64040 processor running at 25 MHz, I think QuickTime could squeeze out a 320×240 video at about 30 fps.

In those early days of QuickTime, games and interactive multimedia applications started appearing on CD-ROM. There was From Alice to ocean and, of course, Myst. My favorite was a quirky game about a spaceship, which I can’t even remember the name of anymore.

QuickTime was pure magic

Back then QuickTime was pure magic. Times have changed and today QuickTime is not that special anymore. QuickTime as a stand-alone technology has all but disappeared and it’s not something that users are excited about anymore, it’s just there in the Mac running when it needs to.

And that is just as it should be.

I was glad that I was around when it was first introduced because it made us view the world in a new way. But other technologies will come along that provide current and future users with the same awe.

Whatever is the coolest thing tomorrow will be a natural part of what we do the next day. That’s the way of high tech.

For now, be assured that Apple is still working hard at QuickTime, even though it’s now “just” a part of the Mac OS X operating system.


I write and talk too much about tech. You can find my personal blog at, my radio shows at, and me on Twitter as mnystedt.

  • Drennen

    Quicktime has been an embarrassment for about 15 years.

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