BeOS: the system that no one was going to create

Because of the limited budget and lack of time, the operating system was going to purchase on the side… But as it turned out, no system answered the essential requirements of a startup and meeting these demands had to write yourself from scratch.

At least one part of it already existed in nature, these same requirements. None of them was random, each passed rounds of discussions and disputes, and even the authority of Jean-Louis created his company did not always lead him to victory. The set of requirements described a fantastic system.

The impression is that the quality of the operating systems or computer platforms has almost no influence on their fate. Or affected, but not the way it should. However, all the best of the best of the vanished creations of human genius is taken over the survivors, making them a little better.

Continued. Beginning, previous parts here, here and here.

The names of the computer and operating system

I call all computers Be “BeBox”. It’s their official name, but it is not so simple. It came into circulation only in 1995, and appeared spontaneously. No one invented specially. Until 1995 the computers of its development was called in the company in different ways. Often they were called “computer”, sometimes in a French accent.

The first, “small-scale”, version called Be the Machine. Steve Sakoman gathered in his garage 30 copies of Be Machine for the employees of the company. Of course, he was helped by the staff, even the head of the company – but chief and most valuable helper was a 12-year-old son Steve.

Operation Be Machine identified deficiencies, and has generated numerous ideas for improvements of the computer. Actually, that’s what they released in such large quantities. They were used, even the company accountant and office Manager. So, very soon, the computer specialists on the development of the computer was significantly different from the Be Machine.

Someone called it Be-1, consistent with B-1 (as a bomber) and it stuck. And Be on the processor PPC 603, of course, was Be-2. But soon this name, also spontaneously had changed to the BeBox.

It was made official. Jean-Louis did not want in the name of the computer was numbers. A strange mania, something reminiscent of the style of jobs. BeBox suited him well. The name not only stuck – it was used retrospectively to describe the previous models. Those 30 Machine now Be called the Hobbit BeBox. By the way, the collectors each machine now costs almost a million dollars, but they left the unit in free sale they have never been reported.

Operating system called BeOS then, when they realized that without writing your own system is not enough.

The set of requirements

The system was not supposed to take hundreds of megabytes of disk space. That’s why UNIX s was not even considered as a candidate for the role of the operating system for the BeBox.

It was supposed to be the core (low-level service system, responsible for basic operations – processes, threads, jobs scheduler, semaphores, areas, ports, communication between processors, etc.).

Among the necessary features of the system had preemptive multitasking, secure virtual memory, multithreading, and support for multiprocessor configurations.

For the important aspects of the system had to meet its internal servers, in the case of purchase on the system they can be renamed as you like, but all of them were performed in separate processes, possibly with multiple threads. Application Server (responsible for launching and initializing programs), Storage Server management (permanent memory), Audio Server, Net Server, and others.

From the design of the system and its fundamental processes (such as system startup, flow control and process management, message exchange between processes, networking, and peripherals, support TCP/IP, etc.) required:

  • the purity and clarity of the implementation (you can only control clear mechanisms);
  • the thoroughness and clarity of documentation;
  • openness (for smart user).

Despite the obviousness of these claims, they have never been recorded in the specifications, and did not pay any attention to their observance.

Not surprisingly, searching for third-party operating system took a lot of time and effort. Surprisingly different: the world has been operating system, OS Chorus that meets almost all these requirements.

The set of requirements restored “in fact”: in the technical documentation, with incredible sharpness and clarity, describes the elements and processes of the operating system that is usually confusing, contradictory and border on magic. This set was never published.


Clean implementation of the system requirements demanded from the developers about the same time, how much is spent on the development of operating systems in which these requirements are unclear.

In BeOS happened temporary derogations from these rules, where the developers do not have time, but it is temporary. At the end of the all hands on deck, at any price, the main principles necessarily restored.

On a peaceful development phase of the system, carefully considered the nature of hobbits.

The influence of the hobbits were mostly positive: almost all the source code for BeOS was written in C and C++. Including low-level. Because of this, the system was able to carry on fundamentally different architectures relatively easily. Concerning.

To me, part of set of requirements there is no one associated with the user interface. This is no accident. Resigned to the inevitable, Jean-Louis was allowed to write his own system, but all that is connected with the interface, window and graphics systems it has persistently postponed.

As it turned out, he was looking for a suitable donor, hoping to solve the interface question, at least, winning time.

In 1992, the company came to Steve Horowitz, a recent University graduate, an expert on user interfaces and abnormally large number of programming languages. His first assignment was to study the PostScript. People did what they liked, and it got a decent salary, in a company that is clearly not suffering from an excess of money.

He was tormented by remorse until he said his main task.

Graphics and user interface

Window operating system from Sun Microsystems written in Display PostScript, Jean-Louis was supposed to use as a GUI BeOS. Or as the basis of this interface.

Steve Horowitz was entrusted the entire range of issues associated with the adaptation of NeWS in BeOS. I guess Jean-Louis was woken up at night in a cold sweat, remembering that if NeWS is deemed suitable, will have to negotiate on the acquisition of licenses from two monsters (Sun Microsystems and Adobe Systems). It would be hard, but to buy time was required.

Steve Horowitz made the NeWS “move” in BeOS, but came to the conclusion that the transfer of this system in BeOS and its adaptation is unrealistic a lot of time. He described in detail in the report, the complexity of migration and adaptation, and explain why they are unrealistic.

Now and graphics windowing system and user interface you need to do yourself?

But then it turned out that Benoit Shillings, never speaking, slowly working on my GUI system with all its subsystems, from scratch – and have already achieved a lot. Even the busiest people should be free time. Otherwise, in difficult times, such miracles are simply impossible.

Benoit became the head of the Department of graphics and interface, and Steve Khorovets ‘ – an employee of the Department.

User interface of the system is also discussed. Oddly enough, the result is one of the best user interfaces in the industry. Although, maybe that’s why.

To be continued

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