Mac OS is the trademarked name for a series of graphical user interface-based operating systems developed by Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) for their Macintosh line of computer systems. The Macintosh user experience is credited with popularizing the graphical user interface. The original form of what Apple would later name the "Mac OS" was the integral and unnamed system software first introduced in 1984 with the original Macintosh, usually referred to simply as the System software.
Apple deliberately downplayed the existence of the operating system in the early years of the Macintosh to help make the machine appear more user-friendly and to distance it from other operating systems such as MS-DOS, which was more arcane and technically challenging. Much of this early system software was held in ROM, with updates typically provided free of charge by Apple dealers on floppy disk. As increasing disk storage capacity and performance gradually eliminated the need for fixing much of an advanced GUI operating system in ROM, Apple explored cloning while positioning major operating system upgrades as separate revenue-generating products, first with System 7.1 and System 7.5, then with Mac OS 7.6 in 1997.
Early versions of the Mac OS were compatible only with Motorola 68000-based Macintoshes. As Apple introduced computers with PowerPC hardware, the OS was upgraded to support this architecture as well. Mac OS 8.1 was the last version that could run on a 68000-class processor (the 68040). Mac OS X, which has superseded the "Classic" Mac OS, is compatible with both PowerPC and Intel processors through version 10.5 ("Leopard"). Version 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") supports only Intel processors.