Intro to the Haiku review series: the BeOS reborn

Sometimes the old has to fade for life to begin again…

Welcome to the beginning of the Haiku alpha review saga! After taking a look at everything from R3 to Zeta, we’re at last ready to venture into the next series!

We open with a downcast, gloomy time for the Be universe…

Be, Inc. had brought into the world a well-loved, wonderful little operating system, but as of January 2002… it was dead.

Screenshot of the closing announcement thanks to the Internet Archive.

The early era for Be had consisted of an Apple like strategy of building both excellent hardware and software — the BeBox and the Be Operating System. The BeBox sold under 2,000 copies in all, however, and Be then focused on the Power Macintosh and the Macintosh clones of the time. And as we saw in the BeOS review anthology, R3 was the first release to be officially ported to and supported on Intel (x86) hardware (and both PPC and x86 would be supported up until R5 “Maui”).

However, as the 1990s accelerated, several things had slowly but inevitably ‘stacked up’ against Be and its operating system that kept it from becoming the tech titan it should have been. First, after porting the OS over to the x86 architecture, the little company had tried to offer BeOS to any computer users who were open to try it out — after all, why port to x86 unless you wanted users to install your software on it? The challenge, however, was that Be did so amidst the stronghold that Windows had created (and held on to). In comparison to most Gnu/Linux, etc. media of the era, installing BeOS was easy. An adventurous computer user could partition and set up a copy, and could even start from within Windows on PC hardware if so desired thanks to a special disk image in R5. And though both the operating system’s ease of use and power looked promising… there really wasn’t an ‘open door’ to do this in the midst of a well entrenched Wintel empire (for the unfamiliar, the formidable Microsoft Windows & Intel PC combination that had dominated the 1990s).

But there still seemed to be hope, as Apple had been searching and hoping for a candidate to build the next generation of the Mac OS from, and these included the BeOS and NeXTstep. In the end, however, Apple picked NeXT and the rest is computing history.

Shown below is a screenshot of GNUstep, an open source alternative to NeXTstep:

In addition, in a quest to save Apple, when Jobs returned, Macintosh clone makers were no longer given access to Apple technologies — which unfortunately injured Be, as the G3 and later could not run BeOS.

So, in the search for a bright future, Be bet on a future market in internet appliances (IA) and decided to pursue this with the BeIA platform (8). The only big problem with Be having done this is that Be would have been right… if they would’ve tried this years in the future. In BeIA’s time, the technologies needed to make seamless UX magic happen just hadn’t caught up to what its developers and investors had optimistically envisioned for the platform.

Screenshot of a BeIA description thanks to the Internet Archive:

And though Be did end up bringing up a lawsuit against Microsoft (6), and tried to get people excited about Internet appliances, nothing could stop the meltdown in progress. In November 2001, Be, Inc., (the home of the Be operating system), went defunct and by early 2002, it was gone (7). Its code went to Palm (which later on went to Access), and BeOS was left orphaned.

An heir is conceived

So things looked bleak — but not all was lost. Enthusiasts from around the world made several unofficial distributions to try and keep BeOS alive. Then, on August, 18, 2001 (1), the OpenBeOS project started with an “Ok, let’s start” message, which outlined what the goals of the new project were to be (4).

And by April 2002, ‘prototype 5’ of the app_server (5) had shown the very beginnings of what would evolve into what will be the first release of a free, open source heir to the BeOS.

And in 2003, Haiku, Inc. was founded; the name “OpenBeOS” itself for the software project was changed to “Haiku” in 2004 (5). Interestingly enough, as a bit of trivia, the name ‘Walter’ had been considered, and there’s actually a page ‘Walter the Operating System’ which still opens (2) and in addition, there were also ‘WalterCon’ events as well.

But in returning to the main story… by March of 2005, in quoting directly from Haiku’s project history page, “Haiku app_server draws the beginnings of a GUI natively under Haiku the first time” (1). This milestone in its history was important, because what Haiku was aiming for with zeal was to create a real successor to the gap R5 had left. Elements had to mesh together, and they had to do so as a whole, independent system that didn’t need an existing BeOS system to operate. Everything had to be consistent, and it had to be good.

And in virtually fast forwarding over the next three years, after a lot of work behind the scenes, as of February 2008, Haiku became self-hosting (3), which is also worth noting, because this now meant that Haiku was capable of being built within itself. In a very tangible way, this milestone offered a sense of stating it is a real operating system to every soul that was watching the hopeful operating system gestate.

But without further adieu, although there were several more milestones that Haiku’s project history page lists, let’s jump right to the moment that’s been years in the making…

Hey! It’s a release!

Cue a newborn crying for the first time, a scene with joyful parents, and a baby shower for an operating system. 🙂

On September 14, 2009 (1), the very first official release of Haiku was born to the world. It’d been years since the project had first begun… and now, it was alive.

And this beautiful first release is what we’re going to look at in the next article of this series where we explore Alpha 1 in gorgeous detail.

So please join me in the next article as I take a look at Haiku alpha 1!

Hope you enjoyed this article! 🙂

And if you like my work, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please link to or follow my page, or support me on Patreon!

Want to read more?

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Credits and Referenced Materials

1. Project History, Haiku Project. https://www.haiku-os.org/about/history/
2. Walter OS page. http://www.dauwalder.net/OpenBeOS/walter.html
3. OSNews. “Haiku Self Hosts for the First Time”. 12 February 2008. https://www.osnews.com/story/19325/haiku-self-hosts-for-the-first-time/
4. Overhagen, Marcus. “Ok, let’s start”. openbeos on FreeLists.org. 18 August 2001. https://www.freelists.org/post/haiku/Ok-lets-start
5. Wikipedia contributors. “History of Haiku (operating system)”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 28 May 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Haiku_%28operating_system%29
6. Be Incorporated, [Press Release]. “Be Incorporated Files Suit Against Microsoft for Violations of Antitrust Laws”. 19 February 2001. http://www.beincorporated.com/press/pressreleases/02-02-19_msft_complaint.html
7. Be Incorporated. “Welcome to Be Incorporated!”. 24 January 2002. http://web.archive.org/web/20020124162157/http://www.be.com/
8. Be Incorporated. “BeIA: The Complete IA Solution”. 9 October 2001. http://web.archive.org/web/20011009000027/http://www.be.com/

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