Celebrating Ten Years of BeOS

It’s 2004, a decade since the earliest versions of BeOS started shipping to developers. Over at OSNews.com, Eugenia Loli-Queru has a nice memorial piece commemorating the anniversary.

I haven’t run BeOS for a couple of years now, though it was certainly the core of my technical life for half a decade. Recently dusted off my old laptop (an early generation dell pentium, 64MBs) and booted Win2K. It was so slow I simply could not use it. All I really needed was a shell and a text editor for the day, so I booted its BeOS partition for the first time in a long time and was amazed all over again. The exact same hardware, but the OS was easily 10x faster. Such a treat. I’m committed to OS X these days, and mostly love it, but will always consider BeOS my only OS “tru luv”. Thanks for the memory walk, Eugenia. And thanks to everyone who ever worked at Be for creating such an outstanding monument to technical possibility.

Music: Billy Bragg & Wilco :: Another Man’s Done Gone

11 Replies to “Celebrating Ten Years of BeOS”

  1. Always had hope for BeOS – it was too bad that the mainstream market never truly materialized. In early-mid 90s, it seemed that operations like Be, Amiga, and NeXT might have actually had a chance to make something happen.

    Back at the tail end of the Dark Ages of Apple, when Amelio publicly aknowleged that Rhapsody devlopment was a fragmented bust and Apple started shopping around for a foundation for the Next Generation MacOS (as oppposed to shopping for a buyer for the company), I recall that BeOS was considered by many (including myself) to be a favored contender.

    Instead, Apple bought NeXT. Which, in the end, was Apple’s salvation – not necessarily thanks to the technical power that NeXT brought in, but most certainly thanks to the almost bloody-minded singularity of vision that Steve’s return (and eventual coup) brought.

  2. There was a lot of speculation at the time about which way Apple would go on the BeOS/NeXT purchase decision. And if memory serves, Apple initially leaned toward Be, until they heard Gassee’s asking price, which Apple apparently felt was absurd (of course no BeOS fan at the time agreed). In the end, I don’t think they made the wrong decision, and over time, they’re bolting on more and more BeOS-like features. But despite incremental performance improvements, OS X is nowhere near Be’s legendary performance curve. They’ve finally got a journalled filesystem thanks to having Dominic on board, but it’s not attributed (database-like), so the Finder isn’t nearly as useful as Be’s Tracker was. I could go on point-by-point, but overall, I agree that Apple made the right decision on that one for having scored Jobs.

  3. (first of all, i’m sorry that i’m not capitalizing anything, my friend is trying to sleep and for some reason his pc beeps every time i press shift)

    i have a question i wanted to ask you, scot, if you don’t mind. i’d like to write a book about the history of beos, since it seems that all of the stuff that made be a cool company is an oral tradition, and it’s unfortunate that the general public can’t enjoy these stories. one has to dig thru years of archives to find little bits of lore now, wouldn’t it be nice to have a book like that, kind of like “the pirates of silicone valley”, if you’ve seen that movie? the goal would be to get said book published, but even if it’s not such a complation of history would be a real treat, and this is something that dosen’t exist, to my knowledge, online. anyway, i was hoping that you might be willing to set aside a little time for a simple interview, i bet you have alot of anecdotes to share with everyone, since your name turns up alot when i look for various tidbits. anyway, if you’d be at all interested, please let me know. thanks!

  4. I was on board with BeOS from PR2 through R4.5 or so, on PPC. I remember that it was regarded as a near-certainty that BeOS was going to be Apple’s new OS, and being shocked (and a bit disappointed) when Apple bought NeXT. Now, of course, with 20/20 hindsight, I know they made the right decision — Steve Jobs saved the company, but I still wonder, sometimes, what Be/MacOSx would have been. On the plus side, we’d have gotten great performance off-the-bat, but the OS likely would have remained closed source, we probably wouldn’t have had multiuser POSIX compliance, etc.

  5. Dave, having worked at Be, I can tell you that it’s not even worth considering what an Apple-that-bought-Be would’ve been like. I, like everyone else, completely agree that Apple made the right decision. No slight to the Be engineers – fantastic, brilliant people that did some really amazing work. It is too bad that BeOS technology basically has died, but the zealots need to move on.

    Me? I’m ecstatic with my Powerbook running OS X! (Still have my Dual 133 BeBox though – and a non-functional Hobbit that I’m looking to get rid of).

  6. Has it really been 10 years? Goodness.

    About once a year I fire up BeOS in virtual pc on my powerbook, and I still miss Pavel’s windowing wizardry and Dominic’s live queries while I’m hunting around in Finder or Explorer.

  7. The technology certainly deserved better than becoming the “Amiga of the Noughts”, but, even now, there’s no viable business model in commercial operating systems unless your company name starts with ‘Micr’ and ends with ‘oft’.

    Pavel and Dominic both work for Apple now, don’t they?

  8. Dave, yup – that’s why OS X has full journaling now, and why the Finder has improved so much in the past year. Attributes in the filesystem would clinch the deal!

  9. Attributes in the filesystem would clinch the deal!

    Man, wouldn’t that be schweet ! :)

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