Probably the first appearance of brushed metal in the Mac’s interface

A few days back, I read with interest an article by Stephen Hackett called The Brushed Metal Diaries: An Introduction, a Trojan Horse and a History of Abuse. While many people believe that brushed metal appeared in the Macintosh’s interface with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, Hackett tracks its arrival back to 1999 and QuickTime 4.0:

1999 was a very interesting time to be an Apple fan. The Five Flavors were the machines of choice for many, and the Newton had been dead for little over a year. Mac OS 8.6 has just shipped, with OS 9 still several months away.

In these days, Apple released Brushed Metal in to the world. While eventually the UI would take over just about everything, its beginnings were quite humble: QuickTime 4.0.

It’s true, brushed metal started to replace the ‘platinum theme’ as the chrome of an application with QuickTime 4.0, but that got the long-time Mac user in me thinking. Somehow I wasn’t completely sure that was the first time I had seen brushed metal elements in a Mac application. As you can easily see by the awfully slow pace at which I’m keeping this site updated, lately I haven’t had much time to spend with my vintage Macs. Yesterday I finally found a moment to investigate a hunch I had, and I was right: brushed metal appeared in a Mac application as early as System 7.5.x (1994-1996), in Apple CD Audio Player’s UI:

AudioCD Player MacOS753 1 2

This image in particular is taken from this page at and it shows the Apple CD Audio Player application as it appears under System 7.5.3. (I verified by booting my Quadra 950 running that same System version, but this was an easier way to obtain a very similar screenshot). As you can see, the application UI emulates the interface of a CD player, and while the ‘Normal’, ‘Shuffle’, ‘Prog’ and ‘→’ buttons are simply faux-metal, the group of buttons on the right (Stop, Play, Eject, and so on) all present a more brushed-metal look. Apple CD Audio Player was also probably the first Mac system application to support customised skins.


2 thoughts on “Probably the first appearance of brushed metal in the Mac’s interface

  1. Except there aren’t any brush marks. There’s an implied brush because of the gradient, but it’s not actually showing off the brush pattern on the brushed metal, which is the key characteristic of the brushed metal theme.

  2. Doug — The point was to give an idea of a ‘brushed metal’ surface. Evidently, the 1994 way of doing so was simpler and more rudimentary than the 1999’s. When the Apple CD Audio Player interface debuted, the most common built-screen resolution and colour depth in Macintoshes were 640×480 and thousands of colours respectively. The surface of the playback controls was also small, so I guess a gradient was enough to suggest a brushed metal feel.

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