The History of the BeBox
1990 saw Jean Louis Gassée and Steve Sakoman leave their posts at
Apple Computer and start working towards their dream of creating a new kind
of computer; one that would inspire both users and developers.
In late 1990, more Apple refugees, including Erich Ringewald and Bob Herold,
joined Gassée and Sakoman at their as yet un-named company.
By the end of 1990, Sakoman had built the first hardware prototype. This
first prototype consisted of nothing but a logic board, a single AT&T Hobbit
processor (coincidentally the same processor used in the early Apple Newton
prototypes, which Sakoman had also worked on), memory and a serial port. This
machine had none of the visual elegance of the final BeBox which would be
publically released less than 5 years later, but it was enough to give the
software engineers a platform to code for.
Read More about 1990
The now infamous 'Hike to the
Sea' was endured by most of Be's employees during June 1991. (Not so)
curiously, there doesn't seem to have been another similar event throughout the
life of the company.
By late 1991, Sakoman had finished a second prototype, built (in history
reminiscent of Apple's early prototypes) in his own garage. This model had
significant enhancements over the first prototype. It had no less
than 5 AT&T processors: two general purpose Hobbit RISC based microprocessors,
and 3 3210 DSPs, used for telephony, audio and video processing. It also had a
graphics adaptor which Sakoman also designed and built.
With the design of the the Be Machine's logic board finished, about 30 units
were handbuilt in Sakoman's garage (with the help of everyone including
Sakoman's 12 year old son), for Be's software engineers to work on.
1991 also saw the naming of Be Inc, and the design of the first company logo.
Read More about 1991
For three years, Sakoman continued to tweak and develop add ons such as a
telephony card, a sound card with built in music synthesizer and several
graphics adapters for the Be Machine.
The software at that time consisted of just a multiprocessing, multitasking
kernel and a command-line shell for launching applications. There were no
graphics, no windowing system, and no integrated database -- although all of
these items were planned.
The first attempt at bringing some graphics capabilities to the be machine
came in the form of an evaluation of the NeWS windowing system from Sun
Microsystems. Steve Horowitz's first job at Be was to learn PostScript to see
what it was like to program in the NeWS environment.
After some consideration, it was decided that the Be engineers would write
their own entire graphics system from scratch. Meanwhile, work continued on
the kernel, i/o subsystem and device drivers.
Read More about 1992/1993
Up until July 1994, all Be Inc's software was written for and running on the
prototype BeBox built around 2 Hobbit CPUs and 3 DSP chips. Unfortunately for
Be, the Hobbit never became a widely used processor, and when its major
customer, Eo was shutdown by stakeholder AT&T, the Hobbit line of
processors was ended.
With the Hobbit processor now obsolete, Be turned to the PowerPC 603 chip as
the basis for its next generation of Be hardware. So began the task of
redesigning and rebuilding both the prototype hardware and low level, device
Read More about 1994
Throughout 1995, Joe Palmer worked on making the PowerPC BeBox a reality.
Meanwhile, the growing team of Be software engineers continued to work on the
as yet unnamed BeOS.
On October 3rd 1995, the BeBox made it's first public appearance, receiving a
standing ovation at Agenda '95, and generating much excitement amongst computer
users, developers, and the press.
Read More about 1995
In January 1996, Be revealed that, despite receiving almost 1000 developer
applications, only 100 BeBoxen were available for developers. As well as there not being enough BeBoxen, Be Inc was again in money trouble. This forced Be to stop production of the BeBox, which only further frustrated developers.
It wasn't until April 1996, when a new $14 million financing deal was signed,
that production of the BeBox resumed, and larger quantities of BeBoxen began to
be shipped to developers.
On the software side, the news was a bit brighter as work continued on the BeOS
with DR6 released in January, followed by DR7 in April. In February, Be
announced that there was no winner of their 'Name our Operating System'
competition. Instead, they had decided to call their OS simply 'The Be
Operating System', or 'Be OS' for short.
In August, excitement again rippled through the developer community as Be
announced that it would release a newer dual 133MHz PowerPC 603e machine
(almost identical to the original 66MHz machine apart from the increased clock
speed and enhanced CPUs). As things eventuated, this was the first and only
publicly released upgrade to the original BeBox.
Read More about 1996
In January 1997, Be announced that it was ceasing production of the BeBox, and
would instead focus its efforts on further developing the BeOS.
During the period from late 1995 through until early 1997, roughly 1800
BeBoxen were manufactured - approximately 1000 Dual 66MHz BeBoxen, and 800 Dual
Read More about 1997