FAQ Page - Frequently Asked BeOS and BeBox Questions

About the Hardware

Q: Who manufactured the BeBox?
A: The core motherboard was manufactured by a Taiwanese company called Altatron. The hardware was then put together in the Be offices and shipped from there.

Q: What is unique about the BeBox?
A: The BeBox was a piece of custom hardware designed with dual processors working in tandem to streamline data processing. The two other unique features are the Blinkenlights and the Geekport.

Q: What are Blinkenlights?
A: On the front bezel of the BeBox are two columns of LEDs. These LEDs, known affectionately as Blinkenlights, show processor load.

Q: What is the Geekport?
A: The Geekport is a custom 37 pin I/O port that allows for custom hardware any hardware engineer can dream up. It sits alongside over a dozen other I/O ports on the back of the machine, giving the BeBox a high degree of flexibility.

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Q: Is the BeBox still supported?
A: Be as a company has moved on from the hardware and software world and as such offers no support for the BeBox. However, many communities exist that will happily offer advice and support for both the hardware and the software.

Q: Can I still purchase a BeBox?
A: If you can find one on eBay or through a trading site, you certainly can. They have not been manufactured in over a decade, however, and so they are very rare.

Q: Why did the BeBox use multiple processors?
A: The BeBox used two processors as a cheaper and more effective way to increase processing power than current computers. In a single-processor system, a new chip offers only incremental improvements over the previous hardware. Additionally, the old chip is discarded and unused. With more than one processor, much more processing power can be added with relative ease. This could be considered a precursor to today's multi-core processors.

Q: Why did the BeBox not come with a graphics card?
A: The Be philosophy at the time was to allow the consumer their choice in additional hardware. An on-board graphics card or a built-in card would simply be a third-party card branded with the Be name. As such, they decided to skip the negotiations and allow the consumer their choice in card.

Q: Can the BeBox run other operating systems besides BeOS?
A: Yes. There are ports of Mac OS, Plan 9, NetBSD and Linux that function on the BeBox.

Q: How many BeBoxes are there?
A: There were initially around 1,000 of the 66 MHz BeBox models ordered and delivered. Around 800 of the next revision, the 133 MHz BeBox, were ordered and delivered. Be had issues with both hardware revisions, causing many of these to be delayed or damaged. It is unknown how many of these machines still exist today.

About the OS

Q: What is BeOS?
A: BeOS is the Be Operating System, an OS designed from the ground up to work with the hardware in a BeBox. BeOS was designed to be incredibly responsive, highly bug-free and ideal for digital media work. The current versions available today are adept at streaming media on cheap hardware.

Q: Is BeOS a fully functional Operating System?
A: In a sense. BeOS was a functional OS at its time, but has been unsupported since 2001. Haiku, the open-source BeOS successor, is much more current and supported. BeOS suffered at the time from a lack of applications, which meant that while the OS functioned perfectly, there was little it could actually do due to lack of software.

Q: What language is BeOS coded in?
A: BeOS is based on C++. The kernel itself is written in C, along with a few other low-level functions. The rest of the OS is written in C++.

Q: Why is the kernel named kernel_joe?
A: Because the original programmer responsible for the majority of its creation was Joe Palmer.

Q: How much did the BeOS and its upgrades cost?
A: BeOS cost around $99, with $25 upgrades from the company. The current version of Haiku is a free and open-source BeOS equivalent.

Q: Was BeOS or the BeBox ever available through chain retail stores or anywhere outside of the U.S.?
A: No. BeOS may have been able to achieve this goal had they not suffered a number of setbacks and eventual withdrawal from the industry. As such, the only BeBox models ever shipped were developer units. Haiku, today, can be found for free from any country with no need to be sold in stores.

Q: How is BeOS supported?
A: Initially, Be offered customer service by phone and e-mail. Since then, support is entirely provided by a community of BeOS fans. Haiku support is provided by Haiku Inc.

Q: Was there a BeOS Newsgroup?
A: Yes. The primary newsgroup was comp.sys.be.

Q: What was the core attraction of BeOS?
A: BeOS was designed from the ground up to be a media OS. As Be put it, the BeBox and BeOS were designed for maximum reliability and high performance for digital media work. While other machines could beat it in terms of general usability, the intent for BeOS was to have a specialized tool for media work. Indeed, BeOS filled this niche rather handily. The problems they ran into were two-fold. First, the company had debt problems and was unable to live up to their promises. Second, few developers were able to access the machines, and so very little software was available for people to use. These combined to limit the BeBox to developer-only status.

Q: What were the selling points of BeOS?
A: It was designed from the ground up and thus did not carry years of legacy requirements it had to support. It supported multiple processors at once, which no other personal computer at the time did. It was designed to take advantage of these processors for maximum speed and reliability. It had a custom file system that was larger and more capable than most others available at the time.

 

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