BeOS: The Alternate Universe’s Mac OS X

You’re likely familiar with the old tale about how Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple and started his own company, NeXT. Apple then bought NeXT and their technologies and brought Jobs back as CEO once again. However, Jobs’ path wasn’t unique, and the history of computing since then could’ve gone a whole lot different.

In 1990, Jean-Louis Gassée, who replaced Jobs in Apple as the head of Macintosh development, was also fired from the company. He then also formed his own computer company with the help of another ex-Apple employee, Steve Sakoman. They called it Be Inc, and their goal was to create a more modern operating system from scratch based on the object-oriented design of C++, using proprietary hardware that could allow for greater media capabilities unseen in personal computers at the time.

Meet The BeOS

Could you imagine emailing someone a video file in 1995? Be Inc. did.

BeOS was, at the time, a foray into a new way of doing home computing. The features it introduced that were brand new at the time are now ubiquitous — things such as preemptive multitasking, journaling filesystems and an uncluttered desktop design. In a way, it was forward-thinking enough that if you look at a screenshot of it today you’d swear it was just any other modern Linux environment, ’90s graphical aesthetic aside. The main strength pushed by its developers was the multimedia support the platform offered: not only was the operating system designed in such a way that audiovisual formats were easy to work with, but also the hardware itself was built with a variety of I/O ports to accommodate such work.

In a time when dual-core computers were still a distant dream, the very first BeBox prototype was already being developed as a dual-processor AT&T Hobbit system. The Hobbit was a short-lived RISC processor specifically designed for the C language. However, since AT&T stopped the production of the chip, Be Inc. quickly shifted its development to a PowerPC-based system instead, which would become the BeBox we know today.

A PowerPC BeBox, including the Blinkenlights at the lower left and right of the case.

The BeBox finally debuted in October 1995, sporting a dual-PowerPC architecture clocked at 66 MHz each, with 133 MHz models following a year later. To emphasize the innovation of having two distinct processor cores, the front of its creatively-shaped case had two stacks of LEDs called “Blinkenlights”, each one of them displaying the current load of each CPU. On top of that, it offered interfaces no other home computer at the time had as standard: two MIDI I/O ports, multiple line-level audio channels and a connector dubbed “Geekport”. This connector was an experimental electronic-development oriented port, featuring power pins, two bi-directional 8-bit lanes and D/A and A/D converters, doing its name rightful justice.

Coulda Been A Contender

In 1994, Apple’s System 7 was showing its age. The company invested efforts into the development of a successor, codenamed Copland, to be released as System 8. By 1996, after missed deadlines and dysfunctional management, the project was deemed unviable and was cancelled. Now on the lookout for outside sources for their next operating system, Apple showed interest in acquiring Be Inc., which was rapidly gaining notoriety as a company pioneering new desktop computing paradigms. The object-oriented BeOS did everything Apple wanted the new Mac OS to do, and more.

Unfortunately for the Be Inc. employees, Apple wasn’t so set on the deal. Gambling on a new technology, the company low-balled an offer of only $125 million USD, which Be executives refused. Later that year, Apple would announce that they were buying NeXT for over twice that amount ($425 million USD). Of course, that deal included Steve Jobs in the package, something Be Inc. couldn’t offer, and the rest is history.

The Sony eVilla, one of the appliances designed to run BeIA software.

With the lack of an acquisition, Be’s hardware was left in a state of commercial unviability; after only about 1800 units sold, the company was forced to shift its focus on the software rather than hardware. BeOS was then ported to the more commonplace x86 architecture to cope with this change, but sales continued to decline.

The company finally resorted to giving BeOS away for free and focusing on BeIA, a version of BeOS meant for use on internet appliances — but even that pivot wasn’t enough to save the project or the company. Be Inc. laid off the majority of its employees in 2001 and sold the company’s assets to Palm, Inc., who decided not to pursue the project further. Aside from the leak of the minor version update R5.1 “Dano”, official production on BeOS was shuttered for good.

Haiku Marches On

The commercial demise of BeOS did not spell an end to the core vision of the Be Inc. employees. Since then, a new open source project called Haiku was started from scratch, picking up from where BeOS left off. The first beta of this new operating system was released on September 2018, and nightly releases continue to update it. New features include a full package manager such as the ones commonly seen in Linux distributions, and support for more modern media formats.

The original experience of BeOS as it was presented two decades ago can still be recreated through emulators. Since this method uses the later x86 port of BeOS, you don’t quite get the whole bells and whistles the custom BeBox hardware could give you, but it’s still a partial glimpse into the future world of yesterday. Adafruit has written a guide that walks you through setting up BeOS R5 using VirtualBox, however, since I had no luck in getting it to work no matter what I did, I ended up writing my own guide using PCem instead in case that one doesn’t work for you either.

What’s left for us now is to wonder, how different would the desktop computer ecosystem look today if all those years ago, back in 1997, Apple decided to buy Be Inc. instead of NeXT? Would Tim Berners-Lee have used a BeBox to run the world’s first web server instead? How would Mac OS X look today, would it still have its iconic (pun intended) dock? Or maybe the tendency for technology to have a point of convergence means that eventually everything would develop the same way regardless. There’s no way of knowing, but it’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane.

176 thoughts on “BeOS: The Alternate Universe’s Mac OS X

    1. > I’ll take operating systems for $100
      >>No one ever heard of them until after they were discontinued and yet every geek claims to hold infinite nostalgia for them
      > What are BeOS and Amiga
      >> Correct!

        1. Gassee and the BeOS team made the Connectiion :
          “To us at Be, the Amiga was an inspiration because of its audio and video capabilities. Also, we drew a distinction between Commodore and the Amiga, which investors didn’t always do. I remember times during our fund raising when the mention of Amiga as a model drew alarmed looks. Telling them they were wrong wasn’t really an option. Nevertheless, because of our old Amiga connection, I still have a license plate that reads AMIGA 96 — given to me when we introduced the BeBox.” -JLG

          BeOS was also the second OS, after AmigaOS, that was not just multitasking but pervasively multithreaded. Not even UNUX could claim that. Obviously it was a decade ahead in terms of the available hardware, and the software decisions that hardware enables.

          1. BeOS was used on the Roland/Edirol DV-7 series of video editing machines and on the Tascam SX-1 digital audio production system.

            On the consumer side, it had more than one office suite, video editing and audio/midi production software, a bunch of commercial games and many game ports as well as emulators, what more could you have wanted at the time?

      1. A friend of mine managed to grab a couple of PowerPC systems back in the late 90’s and we played with BeOS for a couple of years. It really was a beautiful OS for the time, and he used it as his primary system for a while, at least until the PPC boxen he was using it on got too old avoid being tossed for something newer and shinier. He ended up going back to Debian on something more powerful.

        I can’t say that I’m “nostalgic” about BeOS, but I will say that I really wished that I could get myself a PowerPC Mac to install it on for a year or more (which sadly never happened). I ended up having to experience it over the shoulder of my “computer geek” buddy.

          1. Not useless as a desktop operating system. Just useless as a mainstream desktop operating system. Of course they’ll be people saying it’s perfectly fine. But most of us would not waste the time.

      2. I have an Amiga, used one from the time they came out until it’s performance was finally equaled by Win95 – which required a 20X clock rate and an accelerated graphics card to pull off. The Amiga is probably dead; I haven’t used it in 20 years and the battery on the motherboard has probably eaten enough by corrosion to finish it. But I still miss the nearly liquid way the interface worked.

        1. > which required a 20X clock rate and an accelerated graphics card to pull off

          The thing that Amiga “pulled off” was a hack that couldn’t be generalized because it depended on the particular properties and functions of the chips in the machine. PC machines caught up in raw processing power to do the same thing, which also meant that they could do other stuff than these particular tricks.

          That’s what keeps bugging me with the Amiga nostalgia. You got 4096 colors – so what? You couldn’t use them except in very special circumstances if you did things just right. The only thing you could really do on the Amiga was fancy demos specifically designed to leverage its quirks, and that was its downfall as well. It was just party tricks.

          1. Plus, the whole architecture was just built to become obsolete. If you wanted to upgrade it beyond adding another ram chip, you’d basically slot in an expansion card that -bypassed- whatever systems were beneath it and just used the rest of the machine as a fancy motherboard. So surprise surprise, you lost all the previous party tricks and actually downgraded your machine in a sense.

    2. I think Amiga and BeOS are proof that not just simple ideas but the entire source code of an operating system can simply spring into existence via the Mandela effect. Seriously, neither of these existed until something like 2002 or 2003 and then suddenly every computer geek had a fond memory of using at least one of them, unresolved anger over their demise and a copy of an x86 port running on some old closet-find PC or a second boot choice on their main one.

      1. I think I remember that BeOS’s head of engineering, or was it marketing, was a Dog.

        After seeing that, I bought and installed a copy of BeOS, so I’m sure that it did exists.

      2. A little earlier than 2003. I had a Commodore Amiga A1000 around November 1985. The original Amiga DOS had its core written In BCPL and was derived from Tripos which if memory serves me right was developed at Oxford. (Tripos, a three legged stool being always stable – insert laughter). The Amiga desktop environment was a separate layer called Intuition. The Amiga DOS was cooperative multitasking, so it was possible for an errant application to lock up the system. For its time, the Amiga offered a fairly generous memory of 512K bytes, 7.16 MHz 68000 CPU, on board decent quality stereo audio and could be genlocked to NTSC or PAL video timing, making it amenable to medium resolution TV production. One of the Star Trek series of late 1980s did some of its CGI on Amigas.

        There was a contemporaneous x86 PC called the Mindset with audio and genlock that could run MS-DOS and Windows 386 but the Mindset fizzled.

        Atari also had several 68000 based systems in the mid 1980s that were pretty popular. Owing to Jack Tremiel’s association with both Commodore Business Machines and Atari, there was a more than slight resemblance between the Amiga and Atari machines, and it was fairly common for Atari owners to obtain bootleg Amiga ROM images (the original Amiga had RAM to cache its ROM image that was loaded from a Kickstart diskette because the ROM wasn’t frozen by the time the first hardware shipped) and then emulate the Amiga and run Amiga programs on their Atari hardware.

          1. Season 2 (1989) of TNG, and maybe Season 1, did actually have some CG. Phaser beams had been done on computers since sometime in the late 70s, but for at least season 2 of TNG there was actually a hologram emitter built into Picard’s desk: they used it at least in “The Child” and “Loud as a Whisper”, but dropped it at some point, probably because they just didn’t feel that everything was ready with the logostics.

        1. That isn’t true at all. The Amiga and ST were very different. Particularly the Amiga had separate, limited-capability co-processors doing things like drawing the screen. It’s very much a 16-bit descendant of the Atari 8-bit computers, because Jay Miner designed both of them. Not any of the Tramiels, who are widely reviled among anyone who’s ever heard of them. The Amiga was originally going to be an Atari machine, but some Tramiellage or other spoiled that, so they went with a fairly straightforward 68K machine with a fairly ordinary framebuffer.

          Which resembled, very much, the Apple Mac. Except the resolution (in hi-res mode) was higher! You could get cartridges for the ST’s cart port with Mac ROMs on them, though not officially, I think some people got them from Apple’s spares service, before Apple caught on. It cost about half what a Mac did and did just about the same job. You could also get the Mac ROMs on disk. The ST was nicknamed the “Jackintosh” by some. The Mac emu was commercial software though the ST wouldn’t have been what it was without massive piracy.

          An ST couldn’t run Amiga software without a full software emulator. And that’d run at perhaps 5% the speed, if there was one (and you had the extra RAM it would need). You’d have to figure out a way of squeezing the Amiga’s extra colours onto the ST’s screen.

          As far as Babylon 5, that’s another Amiga myth. Apparently the pilot episode, or something, used the Video Toaster, a TV-production graphics box with an Amiga front end. For the actual series they used some more conventional hardware, I dunno what and I don’t care to look, it was a dull, dull, pedantic heap of nerdshit of a programme. All the worst features the later Star Treks had, years before. Pioneers in awful scifi!

          1. Nope. All of the rendered scenes in Bablylon 5 were rendered on networked Amigas (and later PCs) running Lightwave. At the time Lightwave was only available with the Video Toaster. Distributed network rendering added to Lightwave just to support Babylon 5 and SeaQuest DSV production.

            The paths of the ships (in both shows if memory serves) were written out as Lightwave motion paths from a custom version of Fighter Duel, an WWII dog-fighting simulator on the Amiga.

          2. > All of the rendered scenes in Bablylon 5 were rendered on networked Amigas

            Nope. They were using SGI boxes to do the actual rendering. They used the Amigas as a front-end for Lightwave.

          3. > I don’t care to look, it was a dull, dull, pedantic heap of nerdshit of a programme.

            I never watched it when first broadcast, thinking similar to you.

            But friends convinced me years later to watch it. And to be honest in hindsight ST:TNG was basically monster of the week (the mental equivalent of chewing gum or playing tiddlywinks), and by comparison B5 was one of the most far reaching TV shows I’ve ever watched, where what would be meaningless background filler conversation in episodes would be the seeds of complex inter-winding story threads reaching all the way first to the final season (the mental equivalent of chess, where the game is being played backwards).

          4. I did watch a few episodes of Babylon 5. It was on on a Sunday and there was never anything on TV on a Sunday on the 4 channels we had then. At least it was scifi. But it was terrible, wooden, stilted writing and acting. Like the later Star Treks, they couldn’t write human beings who actually acted like people. If you say there were no toilets in Star Trek that’s a metaphor for it. TNG was much better in that regard. In Voyager there were those two blokes who were best friends, and I’ve honestly had closer relationships with the checkout person at the supermarket. I don’t really care about the reverse chess if the people are mental Thunderbirds puppets. Although Thunderbirds was great!

            There’s a lot of bad American scifi. The problem is they let nerds write it cos of all the spaceships and sciencey jargon. Actually that’s another problem Voyager had, constantly saving the day with some kind of subatomic particle. But nerds can often be suboptimal at understanding people. Unlike geeks, their superiors, who understand people but just don’t care!

          5. You is wronk ! B5 is one of the best post TOS scifi space operas ever produced. Season 1 was cheesy but so was TNG S1 and DS9 S1. B5 blows all post 2000´s scifi series out of the water, including rebooted Galactica.

        2. Nope. The Atari could not emulate the Amiga. The Amiga was designed around a very advanced for it’s day custom chip set. The Atari ST lacked the graphics and audio hardware to emulate an Amiga.
          Now what you could do is load Mac Rom images on an ST and run Mac software If I remember it was cartage based and called MagicSac. You had to plug Mac Roms into the cartage and then it made your ST into a Mac.
          The Amiga 1000 and Atari STs did not have much a resemblance except that they used the 68k family of CPUs
          Also the Amiga used preemptive multitasking not cooperative multi tasking. Yes a really bad program could take down the system because it lacked memory protection but it was preemptive. But then I have seen even Linux have issues with really bad apps.
          I had an Amiga 1000, 2000HD, 500, and 3000T and developed software for them. Now I do Linux Kernel development.
          The Amiga was so much better than the PC of the day as was the Atari ST and the Mac. The problem with the Amiga and ST was simply marketing.

          1. Im rather sure we still got our original MagicSac around. Oh I loved that thing. I remember playin Dunegeon Master in the afternoon before some real word processing homework on the Magic Sac.. Yeah wordstar. I was 10.

        3. You must have had a different Amiga OS. Mine had preemptive multitasking, so one thread (“Task”) couldn’t lock up the system. It could crash the system however, lacking the MMU. But that’s a different concept.

        4. AmigaOS was pre-emptive multitasking, but it had a flat memory model with no memory protection between processes – which was the reason errant applications could crash the whole system.

        5. AmigaOS was always preemptive multitasking, not cooperative. It was not using protected memory, so it’s true an errant program could crash the whole OS. When MMU systems became available (I worked on the first one, in 1987), they developed MMU tools for developers to pretty effectively eliminate those sort of bugs, at least when correctly used and tested. But C= didn’t last long enough to see MMU machines standard enough to roll that sort of thing into the OS as a whole.

        6. “it was fairly common for Atari owners to obtain bootleg Amiga ROM images … and then emulate the Amiga and run Amiga programs on their Atari hardware.”

          Um, I don’t think so. The custom chips (Agnus, Denise, Paula) would have made it impossible for an ST to emulate the Amiga. In fact, I had an Amiga 3000 and an Atari ST and I had an ST emulator that ran on the 3000 and ran most of my software faster than any ST available at the time – but that was possible because the ST didn’t have custom co-processors like the Amiga.

      3. I used it as my main os for a few years before a upgrade to something other then my matrox video card dual pentium computer caused to many issues and browsing/printing became a issue back to linux.

      4. … Or it could just be that the Amiga was very unpopular in America but very, very popular in Europe, so these fond memories are just more easily accessible now that we have much better international communication through the internet

          1. Editor’s note: The above is meant as sarcasm — playing on the trope of American’s ignorance of the rest of the world / overinflated sense of importance.

            Fortunately, that’s not 100% true. (We won’t argue what exact percentage, though…)

            So don’t bother complaining. It’s a joke.

      5. You’re talking rubbish. The Commodore Amiga, later retronymed the Commodore Amiga A1000, was released in 1985; I was lucky enough to have both an A500 and an A1200, which were released in 1987 and 1992, respectively – I still have the A1200. Now that I mention it, I’m actually surprised Linus Torvalds never had one, though perhaps it was out of his parents’ price range (I dimly recall him mentioning the family being on a low income around then). As others have said, they were *very* popular in Europe. (I have a book which reports that over two million were sold by about 1991 – granted that that’s chickenfeed by 2015 standards, but not by the standards of 1991, and not given that the majority of them were sold on only one continent.)

        1. Your years are a little late. I sold A1000s at an electronics store in 1986, bought an A500 from the army PX in 1988 in Germany, and drooled at getting an A3000, or even a down-spec A1200 before I got out in 1991.

    3. …and on the hardware side, the Atari ST series had built-in MIDI ports.
      But agreed that no other machine (that I’m aware of, at least) combined all that goodness into one box.

        1. The Sun 2 also had fully preemptive multitasking in 1983… and was closer in price to the Lisa than the Lisa to an Amiga 1000. The Lisa was too expensive for a personal computer, too limited to be taken seriously as a workstation.

      1. DeVry, the big player in learn at home correspondence courses, had a music course that included an Atari ST and a keyboard that plugged into one of the ST’s MIDI ports. When the ST was discontinued the course changed to including a PC clone with a sound card to go with the keyboard, and of course different software.

        1. I remember in, I think, STOS, messing about with the ADSR values for envelopes from the ST’s sound chip. It wasn’t a bad synth. You could drag the points anywhere, and they’d be joined up by lines giving the envelope. Of course you’re limited to A, D, S, and R, but you can, apparently, synthesise just about any instrument using those terms. Was good to mess about and learn a bit more about sound.

          STOS by the way, followed by AMOS on the Amiga, was amazing! A fairly simple BASIC. But with commands for sprites and music and all the other stuff you needed to write a game. And sprite editors and music editors all included! It was fast enough running to write practical games, even over the last couple of years there’s still some madmen out there writing ST shareware in STOS!

          At first STOS was a commercial product, but soon enough Atari bought it to include with each machine, replacing the bloody awful Metacomco BASIC. STOS eventually released, as a commercial product, a compiler that just took the existing BASIC and compiled it, making it approximately 3x faster. There was also STOS Maestro. Available with and without the sampler cart, although without you could only play samples, not record them. That at the time seemed amazing! I never got one. Though later on my first PC Soundblaster 16 was impressive enough.

          Yeah, STOS, how BASIC should be. “Beginners”! Would take line numbers, and just had number and string variables. Unlike Metacomco that decided you could have words and longword variables if you wanted, which is totally the domain of C, not BASIC!

          A couple of example games that came with it were nice and fast and good, proving you could do it. Of course all the sprite code you’d use would be written in assembler behind the scenes but the user didn’t need to care about that. There was even, I forget which, apparently a commercial game written using it, though they didn’t admit it til some magazine found out.

          STOS! It was great and it should come back! Programming is just too complicated nowadays! Bring back STOS: The Game Creator!

          Actually I run an ST emulator on my phone… so I dunno what I’m ranting about. Curently playing Hex, a fantastically addictive and great game from 1985 that’s still lots of fun now.

    4. First-generation Amigas also had an expansion port on the side much like the geekport on the beos, although I don’t think it had analog capability, just access to the address/data/interrupt buses.

      1. The Atari ST had a cartridge port, that almost no software used. I suppose they had their 8-bit machines in mind, which had plenty of ROM cart games, when they designed it. Though the alternative for those was a cassette tape taking 40 minutes to load (the Sinclair Spectrum managed to load the same amount of data in 4 minutes!). Or else a disk drive, which were expensive, though more popular in the USA where they were comparitively about half the price they were in Europe.

        The ST, though, had a 720K (except the earliest single-sided ones) DD disk drive built-in, loading in seconds, so ROM carts would’ve been fairly pointless. There was a sound sampler cart and I think an Action Replay made, and that’s just about it. But as a port, it connected to the CPU bus. Since it was intended to carry ROM chips I don’t recall exactly which CPU signals it had, but at least the address and data busses, and probably a few more. So it would’ve done as a geek port if you’d needed one. Or else the parallel port I suppose. Or the ACSI, almost-SCSI hard disk port.

        The Apple Mac famously didn’t have slots. There’s a great Apple history site run by Andy Herzfeld I’m sure we’ve all been to. He mentions a great guy who worked there, almost managed to sneak a slot into the Mac, disguised as a debug port for manufacturing and servicing. Close but no cigar!

        I’m surprised though that people didn’t think of the CBM PET’s way of doing it. That is, take the CPU out, put a daughterboard in, and pop the CPU into that. That way you get just about every signal you could want. I wonder why nobody made hard drives for the Mac, or other expansions, like that? Maybe the sort of people who used Macs, more a “consumer” machine than for hackers or enthusiasts, didn’t need expansions in the mid-1980s.

        1. Ah, of course, https://www.folklore.org/ . If you don’t know it, it’s well worth letting it suck your life away. I’ve never owned an Apple anything and it still fascinates me, really “back in the day” feeling by the important people who were there. The eccentric engineer I mention with the “debug port”, was Burrell Smith who surely deserves a statue somewhere, and went on to found Radius.

        2. Despite Steve Jobs determination to make expansion of the original Macintosh impossible, many individuals and 3rd parties figured out ways to do it anyway. Pretty much the first hack was boosting RAM before Apple got around to introducing the 512K “Fat Mac”. An original Mac that doesn’t have the RAM size on the back label is an early model prior to the 512K version’s availability.

          More advanced modifications added internal hard drives, color video upgrades for an external monitor and more fun stuff. When the first Mac with an expansion slot came along, the SE/30, Micron released a video upgrade that had a color card for the expansion slot for an external monitor, and a replacement for the board on the back of the CRT so it could have greyscale on the internal display. Since the internal greyscale feature was optional, fewer of those boards exist than do the expansion slot boards. Then combine that with less than clueful salvagers pulling the expansion slot board while leaving the greyscale CRT board to be trashed with the rest of the computer, the rarity got even worse.

          ISTR at least one effort to re-create the greyscale board so people who find the color board can add it to their SE/30s.

          The Macintosh has gone through several cycles of increasing internal expansion ability, down to almost none or none at all, then creeping back up again. One of the most expandable Macs ever was killed right when it was >thisclose< to going to production. It's codename was "Power Express" and it had some features never seen before or since on any production Macintosh. What replaced it was the Beige G3 desktop and tower with their paltry three PCI slots and no goodies like built in wide/ultra SCSI.

          Until the introduction of the stupidly over-engineered and massively overpriced Mac Pro tower last year, the most expandable Macs ever had been the PowerMac 9500 and 9600, and before those the Quadra 900 and 950. Dropping the maximum number of expansion slots to three was slitting Apple's own throat when it came to anyone wanting to build a single Mac with all the best audio and video production hardware. When your system had used 4 or 5 slots in a 9×00 the new G3 was a big fat "No Sale".

          Apple had done the same thing before when going from the IIci to the Quadra 700. Eliminated one slot so equipment from a fully loaded IIci couldn't all be put into a Q700, you'd have to go up to a Q900/950. At least there *was* that path back then.

          1. How did they attach the addons to the original Mac? And I think the SE30 was similar wasn’t it? Same casing but a better CPU. I recall reading the original Macs managed to attach external hard drives via a horrible kludge into the external floppy port. But what else did they do? Any irrelevant and obsolete information is welcome!

          2. The original Mac and in particular the environment/goal of all applications having the same look and feel would not have happened if the original Mac had not had the limitations it did.

            Developers didn’t exist. There were only programmers. The main reason so many used the Mac Toolbox is because you were forced to due to the limited RAM available. Using the Toolbox meant getting 64K more memory to use.

            You have to know that these were the days when it was a point of pride for an individual to write everything. I was at Carnegie Mellon at the time. Macs were everywhere. People still wanted to write their own mouse handling routines — and were.

            Don’t think that was just rarified air and ultra-nerdery: a) that’s the only population writing software in the mid-80s and b) Microsoft was ALREADY ignoring Apple’s design guidelines and writing their own Window behaviors. Word 1.0’s windows behaved differently to windows on other Mac applications.

      2. The Amiga also had the “Joysitck”/mouse ports and those had A/D ports on them. Also the printer port on the Amiga was bi directional so you could use that for GPIO.
        Some people use the audio ports as DACs because they where to control things like laser light shows as well back in the day. Some of the later Amigas also had slots.

        1. I suspect the ADC on the joystick port would be the same type the Atari 8-bits (the Amiga’s father) used, as well as the Atari 2600, and the IBM PC analogue joystick port. It’s a resistance-to-time convertor. You just have a capacitor that the computer empties. Then 5V goes through the resistance in the analogue stick, or the paddles (as in Pong) on the Atari. It then goes to charge the capacitor, which takes an amount of time depending on what the resistance is. So you count cycles until the cap charges up fully, and that counter gives you the value.

          The point is, it’s not a real ADC and you can’t put an analogue voltage into it. It only measures resistance. You could stick a thermistor on if you wanted to measure temperature, say, but it only works with resistors.

          Of course the advantage is it’s very cheap. And does the job well enough for the specific devices it’s meant for.

          1. I think that may not be right, as one of the projects I did back then with my 1000 was to use it to digitise a mic to add some specific sounds to things.. While I can’t 100% remember, I think it went in via the ADC

          2. I looked it up, a bit after I posted, and I am right. Here’s an expanation that’s a lot like mine.

            http://amigadev.elowar.com/read/ADCD_2.1/Hardware_Manual_guide/node010D.html

            It mentions counters that keep track of the capacitor and stop when it reaches it’s threshold. So the CPU doesn’t need to keep checking it, unlike the Atari 2600, say. But it’s still the same principle.

            I suppose, possibly, if you fed a varying current into it, that might also charge the cap and work as an ADC. The voltage would matter though, it’d have to be a constant 5V with a varying current. EG a variable resistor like in an analogue joystick!

            The page I linked seems to mention it tales a whole video frame, though, so the sample rate would be 50 or 60Hz depending on it being a PAL or NTSC machine.

            I really don’t think you could sample sound through it! Maybe you’re misremembering. If you can find a link withj some proof I’d be very impressed.

    5. Yeah, the real feature there was ubiquitous multi-threading and symmetric multiprocessing, coupled with modern memory protection. All the libraries had well-specified threading behavior (which worked out a bunch of threading bugs in gcc and C++ libraries, too…) Windows NT had some of that, but XP was still far in the future, and MacOS didn’t have it at all.
      It also had a kernel model built around plug-and-play, and a bunch of other good things.

      1. MacOS had a lot of core functions stuffed into ROM, until Open Firmware. It treated memory like a storage device, which came with storage device problems like fragmentation and ending up with too small of a contiguous free space to load anything. When Jump Development and Connectix introduced their replacements for Mac’s shite memory management and virtual memory, Apple’s response was illogically NOT to license a somewhat feature limited version as they had done with SuperClock, Extensions Manager and several other pieces. Nope, Apple’s response to RAM Charger was to make updates to Mac OS to break it, repeatedly. Jump Development finally gave up after the Mac OS 9.1 update. RAM Charger’s memory management still works on 9.1 and later but some other features do not. Apple’s rapid fire changes from 7.5.0 through 7.5.5 led several high profile companies (like Radius) to bail out on Macintosh. They got flat out fed up with having to introduce upgrades and patches, only to have to do it again a short time later. There’s a whole battlefield of ‘corpses’ of Mac software and hardware that either doesn’t work at all or has issues with versions after 7.5.3. Apple tried to woo them back with 7.6.0, which was carefully built to run on any Mac with a fully 32bit ROM. All the ‘enabler’ addons for 7.5.x were baked into it, but so were changes that broke so many things with 7.5.5. Then along came more new Mac models, Mac OS 7.6.1, and more ‘enabler’ extensions, and more compatibility issues.

        MacOS (Original System through Mac OS 9.1.2) could only handle one networking protocol on a single interface at once, without using 3rd party software. Windows 95 could run multiple networking protocols on up to six interfaces simultaneously. Or was it up to six protocols on a number of interfaces I no longer recall? Either way, Win kicked Mac in the networking jimmies, really, really hard, and Mac would not do any different until OS X.

        Back when Mac OS 8 was released, Apple took out a two page magazine ad to list all of its “firsts”. Problem was going through the list, fully half of them Windows had been doing since 1995. But long time Mac only users wouldn’t know that. ;)

        Another area Apple skewered themselves was AppleShare IP. They had an ASIP client for Windows 3.1x so PCs could easily connect to a Macintosh running as a server with ASIP. Just prior to the release of Windows 95, Apple announced they would produce an ASIP client for Windows 95. What did they do? Absolutely nothing. Almost immediately after the announcement, work quit (if it ever started) on the new Windows ASIP client. Apparently Apple had decided that an “ASIP shop” would henceforth be a Mac only shop, and that anyone who wanted to use ASIP to provide remote access over the internet was not going to be able to provide download/upload access to remote Windows clients. With Apple’s small and at the time falling market share, that was a highly stupid move for selling Macintosh as a network/internet server.

        Microsoft also carried the idiot ball on this a while later. XP Pro was *supposed to include* Services For Macintosh. It’s right there in the original XP Help files. But apparently at the 11th Hour, Microsoft pulled SFM from XP Pro, restricting it to only Server versions of Windows. SFM provided network access to Macintosh to store its funky split files on a Windows server. SFM even included a “Forkize” command to rescue Mac files that had lost their association between Data and Resource Forks. For unknown reasons, Apple never produced a program capable of doing that, nor did anyone else. If the forks’ relationship in the desktop database was lost or damaged, the file was hosed. Microsoft could do it, on a ‘foreign’ file system, why couldn’t anyone else?

        But anyone who just wanted to be able to easily share stuff via network between one Mac and one PC was SOL, screwed by both companies. The only alternatives were sneakernet or expensive 3rd party software like Thursby DAVE, or running FTP servers on both computers.

        One other way was running the Basilisk II emulator on the PC, giving it network access, copying the files over to the emulator, then giving the emulator access to one host drive’s filesystem and pushing the files out from within the Mac emulator. Going the other way, one could drop the files into the folder tree accessible to the emulator, or insert them into the emulator’s drive image with HFV Explorer.

        All rather tedious and clunky, except for DAVE, which was $$$ and had its own issues.

        1. Mac OS original Memory Manager used Handles (pointers to pointers), not pointers, so that it could move (compact) memory behind the scenes and a properly written application (using toolbox APIs) would be none the wiser. You’d have to lock a Handle before dereferencing it and unlock it when done, though the toolbox APIs that took Handles as arguments did this behind the scenes for you.

          As for the BeBox in the photo, one correction (I had one, it was a lot of fun to develop on, insofar as C++ can be): those aren’t blinking lights at the bottom corners: there were LED segments running all the way up the sides in the “crease” in the case that worked as CPU activity meters, just as Activity Monitor does today. Fun at first but quickly distracting.

    6. Amen to that brother. Somewhere in the multiverse there’s a happy version of Earth. Where they are using Amiga’s OS 10. Rather than Microsoft Windows 10.
      Apple could exist there. If Apple decided to buy Be Inc. instead of NeXT? Also Tim Berners-Lee used a BeBox to run the world’s first web server. Resulting eventually in Apple being a company that cares about it’s customers. Allowing happy creative people to CO exist using Amiga Forever changing for the better. Just dream of it.
      With a little help from the guys at Cern Labs. Perhaps we could go there.

    7. I once thought BeOS could be an ‘out’ for Amiga – an OS that could exist on the 68000 platform to rejuvenate it and make it relevant again. Alas it was not to be. Another pretty OS that died under the marketing weight of Windoze.

      On the subject, many Amiga concepts have yet to be replicated. AREXX (a global programming interface between all apps, based though it was on the dated REXX script) and the ‘datatypes’ model. Want to open a new file format in an application doesnt support? Easy, install a datatype for it and now ALL OS-compliant applications can open it.
      Want to access the features of one app from within another? Simple, script it – like VBA/OLE but not as confined.
      Modularity was always the Amiga’s unsung strength. Multi-tasking is the Amigan’s buzzword but without memory protection (no MMU was as criminal as the lack of FPU – thankyou Commodore bean counters) it was precarious to say the least.
      Losing your artwork in Deluxe Paint because your document crashed in ‘Wordworth’ was tear-inducing. :(

  1. I did develop software with/under BeOS. It had its ups and it downs, it was not quite as “modern” as the article wants to make it look (a combination of AmigaOS and BeOS would probably have been “THE THING ™”. BeOS’ realtime architecture had some good ideas but was quite convoluted to use. You did notice some “we do everything different and we consider documentation a sign of weakness” attitude everyhwere (granted, THAT looks EXTREMELY modern).
    Also, from my experience, there was a wall of ignorance between the BeOS-“makers” and those users who wanted to push its boundaries outwards to “now, this works” instead of “now, this looks nice, let’s do something else”. They were VERY convinced that whatever they did was the only way to do it and by definition the correct one …

    QNX/Neutrino (slightly later) from my perceiption did almost everything right in that respect. Which, probably, is exactly the reason why it never got flying high (well, we did see it in TVs, cars etc … but it could have been a huge thing for desktop/workstation, too)

    1. I fiddled with the QNX desktop bootable live CD image. It looked like it should be a lightweight and powerful OS that ran very sprightly on less powerful PCs, but there was no 3rd party software. QNX needed to line up an office suite and some good games.

      Failed there, just like IBM did with OS/2 Warp. Not enough 3rd party support and critically, no games. Microsoft established their own game studio as a way to push sales of Windows 95. That worked so well, MS made their own gaming hardware (dammit, why isn’t there a new version of the Total Commander?!) and recently they’ve updated and re-released some of their old games like the Age of Empires series.

      BeOS attracted some 3rd party software, but it seemed mainly to gain traction in high end studio production settings. Kind of hard to swallow paying a large $ for an audio production program or 3D modeling and rendering program, when the OS it runs on is free and not getting a heck of a lot of updating from its company. One BeOS issue I ran into was with sound card support. It listed the Soundblaster AWE32 as supported. Great! I had an AWE32… which didn’t work at all with BeOS. Turns out BeOS only worked with the first PnP and newer AWE32. Mine was *the first* model AWE32 that used jumpers to configure it’s DMA, IRQ etc. I told Be Inc they needed to change that in their compatibility list, I told them *several times* but they never bothered to have someone take one damn minute to update the list, or any time figure out how to make it work with non-PnP soundcards.

      Be Inc also claimed they needed ‘critical information’ that Apple wasn’t sharing in order to port BeOS to the G3 Macintoshes. “BS!” was called on that, since Yellowdog and other Linux distros were available for the G3. Quit farting around with dead end BeIA and get to work adapting what you can from Linux and reverse engineer what you can’t. It was like Be Inc had just given up and was waiting to die. The Internet Appliance market never really existed. Most people either wanted a full blown computer online, or wanted nothing to do with any of it. Grandma and Grandpa were fine with ordinary phone calls and had been since the 1920’s.

      Where BeOS *might* have made headway would have been on thin clients running software off servers with a Citrix client. Of course that would have required getting a Citrix client written for BeOS. At the time there were many proprietary and Linux based thin clients doing exactly that. A BeOS/Citrix thin client could’ve had the advantage of the option of being an inexpensive way to also run powerful software locally. But eventually embedded versions of various versions of Windows would squeeze the proprietary thin client systems out, and many thin clients would become (and still are) pretty decent yet minimalist PCs, capable of running full boat versions of Windows or Linux, even able to play some decent games.

      1. Be kind of made me crazy back in those days. I was a developer in later 1985, but jumped to a new startup in 1986, PIOS AG in Germany (I was a founder). We wanted to build a new multimedia-oriented computer, and thrued to get both AmigaOS and BeOS as options. Amiga was still fully in legal limbo (and probably still is), and Be was no longer interested in PowerPC. So we started making Mac Clones.

        After Apple kicked that to the curb, we bounced back with a set top box for rich media and inter et access. Once again, we went to Be. Si ce we could use x86, they were willing to sell the IS, but o ly at desktop prices. We would up going with OS/2, which no one loved, but IBM understood embedded pricing. And a year or so later, Be was betting the farm on BeIA, a really bad idea given that they were limiting support to x86, which as absolutely not the way the market was going back then for that class of embedded system.

    2. I installed BeOS back then and I seem to remember the reason I ditched it like hot garbage was because the error messages were written as haikus. That was ridiculous, and as a developer quite offensive. If they couldn’t give me a straight error message, then I’m not wasting time with ridiculous platform.

    3. I once tried QNX on a floppy disk that came with a magazine. Complete OS, email, and web browser, all in 1.44MB! It decompressed a few things into RAM on boot, but that’s still extremely impressive! I forget how much RAM but 4 or 8MB is round about right. Shame it didn’t take off, but they didn’t have the resources to be Microsoft, the mid-1990s was way too late to expect a large third-party software market to appear. Even IBM couldn’t do it! Still, seems like QNX found it’s niche and did well in places where Windows would have been hopeless. Particularly for reliability, but among plenty of other reasons.

  2. When I was a teenager the company I worked for looked at it as an easy to use platform for the elderly. This was just after it went x86. The OS itself was really nice but software was what killed it. They were selling it as being able to run both windows and mac software but it only ran windows 3.1 titles and we never got anything mac to even install. By this time most windows 3.1 software wasn’t even being sold anymore. In the end it came down to something like “it’s great for the task of getting elderly people online right now but it won’t last a whole hardware upgrade cycle”.

    1. One of those I remember was the MyPC. It used an x86 SOC with (IIRC) a 80486 core and Windows 3.1 with a proprietary shell, booting from some sort of writeable solid state storage. A look inside showed that only half the maximum RAM possible was soldered to the board.

      A few apps and updates were released by the company before it went bankrupt, leaving behind a warehouse filled with examples of the MyPC and the never released MyPC2.

      1. Some people who collect old computers are even daft enough to collect PCs! A MyPC2 sounds like it would be an interesting addition, what happened to them in the end? Actually a MyPC would itself be interesting but the later one sounds like it was more capable.

  3. “…back in 1997, Apple decided to buy Be Inc. instead of NeXT? Would Tim Berners-Lee have used a BeBox to run the world’s first web server instead?”

    Would Bletchley Park have used a BeBox to decrypt Enigma messages? Would Ada Lovelace have written C++ for the BeBox instead of coding for the Analytical Engine? Would Eratosthenes have used the shadows of BeBoxes to measure the diameter of the Earth? The consequences of that 1997 decision could have been very different indeed.

      1. BeOS did have that time travel component. Problem is, eventually some joker would write a time travelling routine that went back in time and made BeOS fail. That’s why most other operating systems were smart enough to leave the system timing functions only functional in the present and future. But BeOS did have the best system time synchronization functionality. That was the big draw for music production software.

  4. “Would Tim Berners-Lee have used a BeBox to run the world’s first web server instead?”. No: we are talking about 1997, while Sir Berners-Lee programmed the first web server in 1990 on a NeXT Cube. So the counterfactual does not hold.

  5. I worked at Be Inc. between the time I emigrated until the layoffs in August 2001. I have great memories of that time!

    We didn’t even know who had bought the company until later. The offer that Be accepted from Palm was $11 million which was the same as an earlier laughable offer from Apple.

    Palm became Palmsource which eventually was sold to Google, where many of the Be engineers worked on what is now Android.

    === Jac

    1. Palm did its own share of stupid things. Running the originators off, who then formed Handspring, then later returned to the Palm fold. Splitting the company into hardware and software divisions. *Selling off PalmOS* to ACCESS then *refusing to use* Palm OS 6 and going more and more to Windows CE, then pitching everything out to do WebOS. Then they introduced a PalmOS 5 emulation in WebOS. Hooray! Everyone’s old Palm software isn’t obsolete. WebOS 2, goodby PalmOS 5 emulation because Palm Inc no longer wants to pay ACCESS for using their own software they had earlier stupidly sold to ACCESS. Very shortly thereafter, HP Buys Palm then even short-er-ly thereafter mercy kills the whole thing.

      BTW, all the Palm tools and utilities at PalmPowerups that used to cost $ have been made freeware. So if you want to do something like install a larger than 4 gig drive into a LifeDrive and give it up to 256 meg “RAM”, or build a custom ROM for a Palm T|X, it’s now free. Now if only someone could dig up a copy of the “Enterprise” WPA2 support software for Palm OS 5 on the T|X… I’d heard that Dmitry (of PalmPowerups) was looking into rolling his own for all Palms with built in WiFi or able to use a WiFi SDIO but decided to not go ahead with it, wouldn’t share his notes/research so someone else could have a leg up on doing it.

      1. Microsoft didn’t develop MS-DOS, Microsoft bought Q-DOS in 1980.

        But don’t you think development, in both cases, continued? Most of Android and most of MS-DOS as they exist today were developed at Google and Microsoft respectively.

    1. Too funny, last week, I was searching for a blank CD-R disk to burn an audio CD for my son… haven’t burned a CD in like 15 years. So I’m looking through stacks of old CDs and came across my old BeOS disks, a few burned disks of programs and my old BeOS 5.0 PE disk. Brought back memories alright!

      I had purchased the Windows version of the 3D application Cinema 4D after they announced they would be releasing a BeOS version. Unfortunately, that was canceled immediately following Be’s announcement that they were ceasing development for the desktop to focus on the “Internet Appliance” version of the OS. We all know how that worked out.

      I had actually bought a few Compaq IA-1s, which ran the Internet Appliance version of the OS and made small adapters to attach IDE hard drives to the IA-1’s CF memory card slot so I could install the full desktop BeOS. Good times indeed!

  6. What’s left for us now is to wonder, how different would the desktop computer ecosystem look today if all those years ago, back in 1997, Apple decided to buy Be Inc. instead of NeXT? Would Tim Berners-Lee have used a BeBox to run the world’s first web server instead?

    Someone’s time lines are way off. Considering Tim Berners-Lee created the first web page years earlier, I am not sure how that would have changed the hardware used when Apple bought NeXT.

    Or am I missing something

    1. Nope! You’re all right in saying I had my wires crossed. Mea culpa! I was too focused on the tale of Be Inc. that the timeline about the early Web slipped me. But wouldn’t it have been cool, if Berners-Lee had been an early adopter of the platform and that had driven Be Box sales just a bit more? :)

      1. …you also neglected to realize that in 1997 you could pick up a dual-CPU Pentium II, so “multicore” systems were not so much a distant dream, but a present reality. (If you had the cash.)

        If BeOS blows your mind, maybe take a look at OS/2 Warp next…

        #smh #millenials

  7. I remember playing with an amazing BeOS computer at a late 90s Dallas computer show – it was such a fast, multitaking, visually & operationally appealing geek machine that in later years – when it never was developed for us eager consumers – we wondered if BeOS was being suppressed (like inventions of 100+ mpg carburators or anti-gravity tech from crashed UFO’s)… *sigh*

  8. “With the lack of an acquisition, Be’s hardware was left in a state of commercial unviability; after only about 1800 units sold, the company was forced to shift its focus on the software rather than hardware. BeOS was then ported to the more commonplace x86 architecture to cope with this change, but sales continued to decline.”

    Shades of NeXT and OpenStep. At least it looked pretty in color.

  9. Well, I don’t like being the first to bring it up but there is a company residing at One Microsoft Way which was said to have the licensing practice of requiring all licensees to pay them a fee no matter what OS was installed on the computer hardware. I recall an interview with Jean-Louis Gassée back then where he stated BeOS was only able to get preloaded on computers as long as that other company also got paid a licensing fee. Mr Gassée said that immediately made products with BeOS more expensive and they were not going to fight that battle.

      1. I’d read that too and I think IBM was able to get OS/2 preloaded in Germany in the 1994 timeframe and within just a month or two was number one. US litigation took years that was played out as SOP to the advantage of Windows.

        1. Microsoft eventually had to offer refunds to people who had bought an OEM computer with Windows and another OS, if they’d removed Windows. IIRC they had to send the CD-ROM to Microsoft.

          Then along came Microsoft’s practice of not including an original Windows install disc, despite their anti-piracy campaign telling people they should always make sure they received the original software install media with a new PC. Windows would henceforth (mostly) only come as recovery files somewhere on the hard drive, or as part of a recovery image on media included by the OEM to restore the PC to an out of box state.

  10. No mention of the litigation against Microsoft and the US$23.25 million payout to Be, Inc in 2003. Microsoft’s prohibition of OEMs to allow dual-boot was a big nail in the BeOS coffin.

  11. As I recall, the guy who wrote the Be filesystem now works for Apple and was responsible for APFS as used on modern Macs and iPads/iOS devices worldwide.
    I used the Be personal edition that came with a PC Plus magazine here in the UK and was extremely impressed. Haiku continues this, but if only it was easier to get into development for it. I think wxwidgets was ported to Be at one point so if that still worked, it’d make it fairly trivial porting apps that I/you write in C++.

    1. That would be Dominic Giampaolo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_Giampaolo that did a lot of the work on BeFS and APFS.

      He’s done all kinds of neat stuff at SGI, Be, QNX, and Apple over the years. His “Practical File System Design with the Be File System” book is a good read, even if you just want FS generalities and don’t care as much about BeFS specifically.

      I’ve always enjoyed BeOS (and now Haiku) since I started playing with it in ’99 or so, but it’s never quite made it up to daily driver for hardware support reasons. The “Playing dozens of media files simultaneously on a Pentium MMX, and staying responsive” parlor trick it could do was really quite a thing to behold. And Haiku has gone well beyond re-implementing 20-year-old tech, their recent(ish) package management work is well-considered and very slick.

      On the other end, I only played with Next/OpenStep after it was obsolete, and it never had anything like the same magic. I did try OS X right after it came out and the pre-10.2 OS X releases were… really not even baseline acceptable on the available hardware, though I’ll grant it was a very agreeable system around 10.6.

      1. “On the other end, I only played with Next/OpenStep after it was obsolete, and it never had anything like the same magic.”

        Really? I was aware of BeOS, but never got a chance to use it. However, NeXT/OpenStep was my daily driver at work way back when and I *LOVED* it! I just loved the whole UI experience, it looked beautiful on 1024×768 and, later, 1280×1024 CRTs when Windows still looked block-y; it’s responsive on the same PC that choked on WinNT/2K; I loved the Merriam-Webster app. on it where I can highlight any word on any other app., hit a key combo (I don’t remember what it is), and get the dictionary and thesaurus entry for it; I loved how I could log in to any PC on the same network and got *my* desktop and all my settings; etc. I resisted the switch to WinNT/2K for a long time until the admins shut off the Netinfo servers.

        I know macOS is basically a reincarnation of NeXT/OpenStep and I do recognise some of the features that have been carried on; but, for some reason, I just never took to it.

  12. I had my primary machine at the time set up to dual-boot between OS/2 (my primary OS at the time) and BeOS 4 and later 4.5. I bought both at retail and spent a good amount of money on a native apps for both platforms (BeProductive, anyone?). I loved that I was able to boot BeOS within 30 seconds, where OS/2 (even with 16MB of memory) still took over a minute or so to boot.

    BeOS seems liked a breath of fresh air compared to the alternatives and was still light years ahead of Windows 95 in some areas. Unfortunately, it never got the capital or support it needed to succeed and withered on the vine. I still dabble with Haiku on an old laptop I own but, unfortunately, that will never be more than a hobbiest OS at best.

  13. I still proudly wear the “Be” T-shirt that Jean-Louis Gassée handed me at their conference booth… probably at Seybold. (Can’t wear it too often, as it’s getting a bit threadbare!) I never used BeOS, but it’s still my favorite name for an OS.

  14. I remember back in the day, Neverwinter Nights was originally slated to have not just a Windows version, but also a native Linux version… but also a BeOS version. But then BeOS died, and the Linux version itself had a few issues and tended to be a patch or two behind the Windows version… Eventually it did catch up, but they had some really grandiose dreams and hype for that game.

    I did manage to use BeOS v5 once it made it out for x86, and it was an impressive OS for the time. In some ways it’s impressive even today, but with the modern security environment in mind I doubt it would have fared any better than the current offerings on that particular front. It was never designed to be secure, nor was it designed for multi users (which is a prerequisite for privilege separation and dropping).

  15. Apple would have been out of business by now if they had choose be os… while next os was a junk… it was Steve Jobs that led to iPhone…. the product that save Apple from extinction and propelled them to the most vs.uable company….

      1. The missing the point part does seem familiar.

        NeXTSTEP had so many amazing things in it that are still in use in some form or another today in either Apple’s OS’s (all of them) and/or across the industry. NetInfo Manager strongly informed (at the minimum) Bonjour, which powers more ease-of-use connectivity than you could know.

        The developer technology from the 1980s and 90s still lives in recognizable form underpinning every app on the App Store.

        macOS is more NeXTSTEP than macOS at this point.

        How much value does Apple have as a company these days? 1.4 TRILLION$

        Basically?

    1. No one can say if it would’ve survived with BeOS, though I personally doubt it. I don’t understand why you call NeXT/NeXTSTEP “junk,” Since NeXTSTEP was the backbone of OS X and the reason Apple got Steve Jobs back. Apple was already far from being extinct when the iPhone shipped, it has been profitable again since 1998, nine years before the iPhone. Certainly the iPhone has taken it to the stratosphere but the iMac, OS X and iPod had made Apple and Jobs a huge and profitable comeback story.

    2. My Rhapsody developer release CDs say otherwise. It was basically Next running on i386, and was the first OS X developer release. They then ported it to PPC, for the boxes of the day. I had Rhaposdy running on i386 at the time, and even got MkLinux running on a 6100/66 nubus powermac. Next was microkernel based, which facilitated the 68k->i386->PPC porting.

  16. I built a computer in 1998 specifically for BeOS. Mostly scrounged/cannibalized parts (I was in high school so budget was extremely limited), but it worked! I was very proud that I got it running. And then I very quickly ran out of things to do with it. Software availability was even more limited than for Linux. But it was cool.

  17. I was an Amiga developer and as Commodore was flaming out, I had dome hopes for Be. One of their philosophies was to be multi threaded as much as possible, so the threads could run on different chips. The fear at the time was that Moore’s Law was ending, so more power would come from more cpu chips. BeOs ran on Mac clone machinery, some of which was very powerful. When Jobs came back and stopped Mac clines, that was it for Be. I was also a NeXT developer, as well as a Mac and *nix developer. NeXT and Amiga were both great, there was great experimental arts software for both.

  18. I was a BeOS reseller from 97-2000 – gave folks a discount if they let me install BeOS, for free, on their new machine, plus a free service call as well. Only “sold” 2 copies. it was so damn frustrating having customers reject it without thought :(

    BeOS was my primary environment till i sold that company in 2000, then was my primary again in college (computer engineering – i went back for my degree just a bit later than most go to college).

    I miss Be – but, yeah, i was never an Amiga user.

  19. One of my favorite books on file system design was written by the author of the BeOS journaling filesystem, Be File System (BFS). BFS had design innovations that weren’t widely implemented in other operating systems until long after Be was folded into Palm. I would still recommend reading the book to understand practical considerations in file system design. The book is appropriately named Practical File System Design by Dominic Giampaolo and is available on Amazon.

    Anyone know if Palm used BeOS as a basis for their WebOS? Always wondered about that.

  20. “In a time when dual-core computers were still a distant dream…”

    Tyan® Announces Intel® Dual Pentium® II Motherboard Family
    New boards offer highest performance available, dual processors, system monitoring – (Only dual-processor motherboard tested and confirmed at 300MHz)

    MILPITAS, California, May 7, 1997 – Tyan® Computer Corp., a leading developer of system boards and a long-time Intel OEM partner, today announced the Tahoe family of single and dual-processor AT/ATX-footprint motherboards, which offer the speed and performance of Intel’s new Pentium II (Klamath) Processor. Pentium II performance exceeds that of Sun Sparc in workstation applications. Individual Features — designed for high-performance desktop applications, it features five 32-bit PCI bus master and four ISA slots; eight 72-pin SIMM sockets, expandable to 512MB EDO or FPM DRAM, and a Baby-AT form factor.

    1. You could get Pentium Pro machines with 2 CPUs, and I think even a few Pentiums. Probably the same with 486s for all I know, for the higher-end market who wanted to run PCs for some reason instead of IBM stuff or whatever. I suppose things like databases that started off on a PC and grew bigger.

  21. I remember reading that while BeOS was very appealing, it was missing key Mac-like features that would take Apple years to implement before it could ship, namely no print drivers, no file sharing and no language support (English only).

  22. I do believe Tim Berners-Lee’s web server predated BeOS by some time.

    I ran BeOS on a PC for a short while. I loved how it worked. But could never find software that justified switching. There was an all-in-one word processor, spreadsheet, thing that reminded me of Cyberdog. But it never had the numbers to make it work.

    And history shows Apple made the right decision.

  23. Had Apple not bought NeXT, Mac OSX wouldn’t exist today because Apple wouldn’t exist today.

    Bill Gates, via Microsoft, famously infused Apple with $100,000,000 to keep it viable upon Steve Jobs return. Microsoft did this primarily to prop up its case to the U.S. government that Microsoft was not a monopoly, but MS only took that chance on the confidence that Jobs could right the listing ship of Apple for the long term.

    It was Jobs’ vision and impossibly fastidious tenacity that drove Apple engineers to the brink of insanity creating new products like iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, all of which defined the future of personal computing and gave a stagnating industry new life. Without such innovations, Apple management would have just continued trying to increase its paltry marketshare in an industry — home computers — that would reach market saturation and maturity in less than a decade, assuring its demise, capital infusion or not.

    1. At the time, working in Apple sales, I recall that Jobs negotiated the $100M as non voting stock, and locked in the next release of MS Office for Mac as part of the deal, which otherwise would have been discontinued by Microsoft, potentially jeopardising further Mac sales to customers in education and office environments who were already committed to MS Office.

      Also, I’m not sure how $100M was to “keep it viable” when Apple had cash reserves of $1.7B and $1.5B in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

      With the benefit of hindsight, it looks more like paying tribute to a Monopoly to keep MS Office shipping.

    2. Mate, you’re talking about a horrendously bloated media playing program with monopolistic tendencies, an overpriced MP3 player, an overpriced phone, and an overpriced tablet. Apple didn’t invent any of those things. They just put them in nice shiny cases and charged the Earth for them, so that, in the case of the Iphone, people could show off that they were daft enough to spend a grand on a bloody phone.

      Except phone contracts with 4-year terms at some ridiculous price meant that the Iphone was in the reach of most daft people if they were willing to commit to spending 4 years paying for a phone that’d be obsolete in 1 year and the non-replacable battery would be lucky to last for 3. But there’s no shortage of idiots in the world so it went on to do extremely well. But that’s not because it’s a particularly good phone, or even anything to do with the software and app market. It’s just about entirely because it costs a grand, so people can have a phone that everyone knows costs a grand. Same reason people buy those stupid showy fast cars. Doesn’t mean anybody involved is smart or good, nor the product. Before Apple, Microsoft was the big cheese, and how awful are their products?

  24. I actually installed BeOS on my machine. I guess it was the old Pentium 200 MMX (otherwise it was the Slot A Athlon 600) and was amazed that I could play MP3s and do other stuff without the MP3 skipping. On Windows I couldn’t even browse through a folder without the MP3s skipping like crazy…

  25. I remember flying to Vegas just to see BEOS at Comdex (those were the grand old days of computing, CES is a county fair in comparison). It’s graphic generating speeds were phenomenal. We were looking at it at the time for multimedia production.

  26. I tried BeOS 5 on my PC back in the days, I was really impressed of how responsive the GUI was compared to the PC operating systems (Windows, Linux, *BSD, OS/2) of those days. User interaction threads got highest priority, and multithreading support worked GREAT! However, 3rd party software was really lacking…

  27. One of the people at the company I was working for at the time bought one of these BeBox’es. We were all impressed with it, and I even went and looked up BeOS. It looked like a procedural OS to me, though their naming convention was better than Windows.

    Also, as far as NeXT. It turns out FLTK originated on that platform. In that perfect world, we’d all be using it today!

    Final note, the Amiga 500 cost like $2000 in 1985. To put that in perspective, 2 grand is a lot of money today, back then it was a fortune (to some people). :)

    1. “Final note, the Amiga 500 cost like $2000 in 1985.”
      Ahhh… No.
      The Amiga 500 did not ship until 1987 and at $699. The Amiga 1000 shipped in 1985 for $1200 ish dollars.
      Yes computers where a lot more expensive then. The Mac 512k was well over $2000 and an IBM AT was close to $4000 at that time. The Amiga 1000 was faster and more powerful in CPU and memory expansion than the AT or Mac but lacked software and Until the 2000 shipped really good Hard drive support.

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