The Haiku project to reimplement BeOS just released their first alpha, and despite having less than no time to do so, I took a few minutes to play with it, and it is bringing back some great memories. BeOS was a really spectacular operating system which was floating around the edges of the market in the late 90s, with some truly revolutionary features, some of which are still not widely adopted. Remember WinFS, that Microsoft has been failing to deliver since 2003? Be had almost all the amazing indexeng/medatdata/journaling features (basically everything but encryption) in it’s BeFS in 1997. And that “new” Grand Central Dispatch thread model in the most recent version of OS X? BeOS had something analogous from the beginning (around 1995). It was, in many ways, a perfect, highly responsive desktop OS, which (if not for the anticompetitive practices of Apple and Microsoft) could have owned a large portion of the market. Probably my favorite memory of BeOS was running the classic “BeOS is more responsive” demonstration: bringing up dozens of instances of the built in media player, each playing a different mp3, on pathetic (I did it on a Pentium MMX @ 233Mhz with 192Mb of RAM) hardware… and having them all play smoothly and mix together. I’m not sure my current machine could do that under Linux OR Win7, and it is (roughly) ten times as powerful.
This OSNews Article has a good history and perspective; the quick version is that Be, Inc. was formed largely from disenchanted former Apple employees (including Joseph Palmer, an electrical engineer/ industrial designer who I’ve always looked up to), designed themselves a revolutionary platform (hardware and software), moved to a software-only model because they couldn’t afford to maintain their hardware buisness, and were actively pushed out of the market by Apple (who took action to keep BeOS from running on new Macs, and killed the clone business, ruining the market for PPC hardware) and Microsoft (who bullied PC vendors into refusing to bundle BeOS). Before Be imploded, and had their assets bought by Palm, Apple almost bought Be as the core for the “post-classic” Mac after the Copland project failed. Instead they bought NeXT (also made up mostly ex-Apple people) for roughly Be’s asking price, and that eventually became OS X.
Best of luck to the Haiku team, a big part of me hopes that progress will continue, and sometime in the not too distant future my everyday use machine will be a Haiku box.
Now I’m like the arrow that springs from the bow. No hesitation, no doubts. The path is clear.— Jeffrey Sinclair, from J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5
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