Be, Inc. In the thrall of the Hobbits

In 1994 sales of AT&T 92020 (Hobbits) stopped. The Eo ceased production of the world’s only devices that used them. Before the birth of the computer from Be remained a few months, but AT&T hoped it would Be survive these months.

Reason to doubt AT&T was in 1994, according to Jean-Louis, four or five times he had to look for money – the company didn’t earn anything, not to pay salaries to the staff was impossible, the creditors lost patience. In Silicon valley, as a way to hide it was impossible.

AT&T was the money, but spend it on the expectation that most likely will not happen, would be foolish. Nothing personal – just business. AT&T announced the closure of the project 920×0, and on the termination of their production.

The result of four years of hard work, Be-1, stood on the table, but now neither he nor the team of its creators had no chance. Jean-Louis had a choice: to commit suicide, or to recognize themselves insolvent debtor, putting an end to his future.

The rest was easier: it was time to look for a job, which is for professionals of their level would not be too difficult.

Lenders do not have to wait, and to respond to them was nothing – besides, the money again was not at all. To disperse, and let everyone get what needs?

The team has made a different decision. Unanimously. No matter what, end Be-2 on other processors (that had yet to choose), and in March 1995 – as was promised to creditors. You realize this is completely unrealistic? But the most unrealistic was the task of the Jean-Louis: to reassure creditors that all understand better than we do, and get money from them for the final push.

In March 1995, Be, Inc were ready to present their first computer. But we’ll be back 4 years ago when it was just beginning.

In the next part I will talk about the operating system BeOS, and next after it, about the most dramatic period in the history of Be, Inc.

Continued. Beginning, previous parts here and here.

Zero cycle

The history of Be, which as yet had no name, no accounts, no registration, began in 1990. The next day, after leaving Apple, Jean-Louis and Steve bought in the supermarket Fry a bunch of parts for computers, of which was assembled the first prototype of the future BeBox.

The name is not even the company, not to mention the prototype.

The prototype was placed in a typical low cost computer case charcoal color (probably a shade of black or gray?), and consisted of the motherboard with one Hobbit, a hard disk, floppy disk, serial and parallel ports, and graphics adapter.

The graphics adapter is soldered to Steve Sakoman.

In the late ’90 or early’ 91, Jean-Louis and Steve was joined by two runaways from Apple, Bob Herold (from project Newton, according to which after the departure of Steve and Jean-Louis, the project stopped, it became unbearably boring and hopeless) and Eric Ringwald, head of the Jaguar project (which Apple has closed, fearing that the Jaguar and its operating system will compete with Mac AMI).

Bob Herold undertook the development of device drivers and low level software for the prototype, simultaneously testing it and helping Steve Sakoman to debug.

Eric was searching the operating system for the future BeBox. They were not going to write more and operating system. On this, the General view was that they had neither the means nor the energy. To find a suitable system proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Only one of the reviewed by Eric were very similar to what they were looking for.

It was a Chorus OS, the development of integrated Microsystems. Incredibly scalable, highly flexible and lightweight, it was all good. She had only one flaw: high price. To agree with the Chorus to lower the price failed. Contact unknown company, whose head speaks with a French accent and wears an earring in his ear, nobody wanted.

It seems that Chorus Microsystems are unable to negotiate with anyone at all, and in early 1992 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, from which she was saved by Sun Microsystems, bought it. Sun Microsystems, the year before, were also interested in Chorus OS, and it didn’t work out either. But Be have already started to develop its own system – which I will write

Fifth in the team was Benoit Shillings, which Jean-Louis met in September 1990 at the Apple Expo in Paris. Benoit was an expert on architectures of memory and search engines, he developed the project “Marco Polo”, presented at the exhibition, produced by Jean-Louis so impressed that he invited Benoit to join the adventure. In the very late 1990 or early 1991, Benoit came to California and became one of the first employees of the company, which did not have a name.

March on the wild beach

Jean-Louis, apparently without visits to the beaches in the company employees could not. Money for the hotel and French cuisine, from the good chief was not, of the company (formerly) was not months, but the fatigue from eight months of hard work was beginning to tell.

And then Jean-Louis arranged a bike ride. In June of 1991. At a distance of not 42, not 50 km (from 26 to 30 miles, according to the participants, that is of 41.8 to 48.2 km).

It was hard, but fun. Broken knees, and broken shoes that we had to throw away – but when Be at full strength, he fell to almost the cooled sand of the wild beach was not 3, not 5 o’clock in the morning – and it was a victory!

Sandwiches and cheap wine tasted better than the most exquisite dishes, abrasions ached from salty ocean water and the hot sun… Since the official creation of Be, Inc has been three weeks since the beginning of the project – eight months, but it was then, on the shore, they suddenly realized something very important.

They will overcome all and will definitely win.

The race participants remember different episodes, each remember something different – but all this event remained in the memory as something special.

If would Be a little bit lucky this race would make history. It would suit for everyone, every year…

Be Machine

Gradually, the computer took on unique features. The second prototype, in the same cheap housing, which is called the Be Machine, or Be-1 was already 5-processor.

For the dream worked two hobbits, and three DSP processor from AT&T. the Hobbits had found a weak spot: they were not too effective in dealing with floating point. DSP, correcting this deficiency, provided, and parallel execution of operations on arrays of data, and incredible (best in this class of computers) ability in the field of multimedia.

Sound, video, graphics…

Gradually the machine has acquired its own work: original solutions for input/output (liberated from carrying those vile and despicable things the Central processors and processors for digital signal processing), and all these “Goodies” were made as cheap and easy to mass production.

The computer had to win a place under the sun from Windows PC and Macs, price mattered.

In early 1994, the “feature freeze”: the amendments to the design were forbidden, the team began intensive debugging and Troubleshooting bugs, which enough. Period of the first light was scheduled for March 1995.

Everything was never better. The only thing that bothered to enjoy life, were creditors. Be Machine impressed them, they still, though with difficulty, gave money for its finishing to perfection – but in terrible conditions.

Everything will work out, everything will be fine, but nothing happened…

To be continued: let’s talk about BeOS… then about BeBox/PowerPC.

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