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Meet the BeOS

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Meet the BeOS

by Scot Hacker, author of The BeOS Bible

IF YOU'RE LIKE MANY PEOPLE, you may have heard the name, but have only a vague idea of what the BeOS is and what it can do. The BeOS is a radical new operating system--the brainchild of former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée, and the product of many years of work by some of the world's most visionary engineers and designers. This fully modern operating system runs on standard Intel/x86-based hardware and many models of PowerMac computers (to see if your system is BeOS compatible, check these lists of BeOS-ready Intel and PowerPC systems).

You don't have to give up your current operating system to try out the BeOS--it can occupy a partition on your hard drive alongside your other operating system(s), as long as your setup meets the minimum requirements. In fact, the company is positioning the BeOS as a complement to your current OS, one that can better handle specific, high-end media tasks, such as audio and video.

If it's buzzwords you're looking for, the BeOS gives you radical multitasking, pervasive multithreading, true protected memory, a 64-bit, fully journaled, database-like file system, multiple desktops, and unbelievable speed. Because it was designed to remain responsive under multitasking loads that would crush other operating systems, the BeOS can unleash the power of your existing hardware, making your system seem twice as fast without requiring any upgrades.


Both Windows and Mac OS are the product of more than 20 years of evolution. As such, they're stuffed with legacy code and design decisions that once seemed like good ideas but are now stumbling blocks to moving forward. Because Microsoft and Apple don't want to risk making their users' software obsolete, everything they do has to remain backward-compatible with software that was released a decade ago. This makes it difficult if not impossible to integrate truly innovative computing features.

By developing an operating system from scratch, Be's creators won the opportunity to avoid the mistakes that other OS vendors have made, and to build a system that will carry us well into the next millennium--a system fully optimized for the high-bandwidth needs of the sophisticated graphics, audio, and video apps that are becoming increasingly important in our computing lives.


These apply to both Intel and PowerMac systems, unless otherwise specified.

  • a BeOS Ready system

  • 16MB of RAM (more strongly recommended)

  • 150MB IDE or SCSI hard disk

  • IDE or SCSI CD-ROM drive

  • serial or PS/2 mouse and standard or PS/2 keyboard (Intel); ADB mouse and keyboard (PowerMac)

  • graphics card

  • multisync monitor (strongly recommended)

  • Ethernet or PPP network connection (strongly recommended)

For an updated list of BeOS-ready systems, processors, chip sets, and sound, graphics, and network cards, visit The BeOS Ready List on the Be, Inc., site (which is where we got this info). Here, you'll also find FAQs for both Intel and PowerMac systems.

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