My Experience with BeOS

I recently came across this operating system. It’s called BeOS. It’s short for “Be Operating System”. This OS was developed from the early 90’s until its demise in the dawn of the new millennium, and when Be, Inc. was bought my Palm, Inc. Enough of the brief history of BeOS! Let’s talk about BeOS’s features and its interface. BeOS was an operating system made for digital media work. BeOS is POSIX compatible (kinda) and has a command prompt interface through bash, but internally, BeOS isn’t UNIX at all. At first BeOS was made to run on their specialized hardware, known as “BeBox”. Originally ran on PowerPC then made a version for x86 systems. I was able to install BeOS on my old IBM Aptiva which has a 400 MHz AMD k6-2 Processor, 64 MB of RAM and a ATI Mach64 Graphics chip with 8 MB of video memory. Note, BeOS can’t be run on more modern hardware. In order to start up BeOS, I have to pop in my boot floppy. Click on the images to see them slightly bigger and more detail.

What makes BeOS unique is its titlebars. It resembles tabs. In a way, it reminds me of the Finder in the classic Mac OS. The name of the file manager is “Tracker”, which is equivalent to Windows Explorer in Windows and the Finder in Mac OS. In this screenshot, the taskbar is on the right. (Its on the right by default.) but it can be positioned anywhere in the screen.

In the following screenshot, I positioned it on the bottom of the screen. As a regular Windows user, I am accustomed for the task bar to be on the bottom, as you can see in this screenshot.

The file manager is similar to that of Windows and Mac OS (Classic Mac OS, not Mac OS X) The Tracker (That’s the name of it!) Is a spatial file system, meaning that each folder opens in a separate window. Also, BeOS is a single user operating system with no local security restrictions. Here’s some open Tracker windows and the BeOS terminal.

Here’s a couple of applications running.

BeOS has different workspaces you can… work with. You can customize each workspace with a different background. Not sure if you can tell but on the lower right corner you can see a window labeled “Workspaces”, and one of my workspaces has a purple background.

My old IBM Aptiva booting into BeOS. As you can see, that’s the boot screen.

Another picture of my IBM Aptiva.

My conclusion: BeOS is a pretty neat operating system. It has some features that Windows and classic Mac OS didn’t have at the time, like preemptive-multitasking. Going back to the history of BeOS, at one point, Apple wanted to replace their aging Mac OS and there was two options: BeOS or NeXTSTEP, Apple’s CEO at the time which was Gil Amelio was negotiating with Be, Inc. but the CEO of Be, Inc. was asking for a buttload of money and Apple decided to buy NeXTSTEP. If you didn’t know, NeXTSTEP is Mac OS X’s direct ancestor. Anyhoo, but the thing that caused many to stray away from BeOS was the inability of BeOS to print stuff. Its too bad that BeOS just… died out. There’s a project to recreate BeOS called the “Haiku Project”.

Haiku OS:

Those links in BeOS’s wiki in Wikipedia, because I’m too lazy to list them.


3 thoughts on “My Experience with BeOS

  1. Ronin

    …actually…it’s not so much a surprise it looks a little like the “Classic” MacOS…seeing it was the baby of Jean Louis Gassee…I was using BeOS as an alternative OS on my old FrankenPC back in the late 90s…Twin Deschutes 333 multibooting WinNT, OS/2 4.5, Red Hat and BeOS 4.5 (Later 5.0 Pro)…

    I loved Be for it’s robustness and very fast interface…and It was the only way I could run older MacOS 7 (in an emulator) with stbility…but it was fantastic for audio creation and MIDI…

    Sad that JLG wanted more to stick it to Apple and hold out for more money than offered him for his OS…otherwise it’d be OS X…but likewise we’d not have the colorful (no pun intended) array of hardware and software from Cupertino for the past decade and change…

    I really wish it had become a real player in the OS market instead of the fringe it was destined to inhabit…so much promise…

  2. Mark

    A couple corrections.

    BeOS is easy to install to your hard drive and doesn’t require a floppy to boot up.

    I didn’t have problems printing.

    From POST to desktop, only 10 seconds.

    I used Opera, which back then didn’t have M2 mail.

    I used Beam for email.

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