Spinning Wait Cursor - History


A wristwatch was the first wait cursor in early versions of Mac OS. Apple's HyperCard first popularized animated cursors, including a spinning beach ball which could be advanced by repeated HyperTalk invocations of "set cursor to busy". The beach ball cursor was also adopted to indicate running script code in the HyperTalk-like AppleScript.

These cursors would be activated by an application when it was performing a lengthy operation. (Microsoft Windows would later adopt the Apple Lisa hourglass/blue spiral cursor for the same concept.) Some versions of the Apple Installer used an animated "counting hand" cursor; other applications provided their own theme-appropriate custom cursors, such as a revolving Yin Yang symbol, Fetch's running dog, Retrospect's spinning tape, and Pro Tools' tapping fingers. Apple provided standard interfaces for animating cursors: originally the Cursor Utilities (SpinCursor, RotateCursor) and, in Mac OS 8 and later, the Appearance Manager (SetAnimatedThemeCursor).

In Mac OS X, Apple used the NeXTSTEP rainbow-colored spinning optical disk cursor. In OS X 10.0 and 10.1, the cursor had a two dimensional appearance, essentially unchanged from NeXT. Mac OS X 10.2 gave the cursor a glossy rounded "gumdrop" look in keeping with other OS X interface elements. The presence of preemptive multitasking under OS X changed the cursor's meaning. Rather than being an indication that an application was performing an action it expected to take a while, it meant that the system software had noticed that an application had stopped responding to events. This could indicate that the application was in an infinite loop, or just performing a lengthy operation and ignoring events.

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