BeOS: a system that no one was going to create

Jul

28

2018

Due to budget limitations and lack of time, the operating system was going to be purchased on the side … But, as it turned out, not one system met the basic requirements of the start-up – and had to write the answers to these requirements from scratch.

At least one part of it already existed in nature: these very requirements. None of them was random, each passed more than one round of discussions and disputes, and even the authority of Jean-Louis in the company he created did not always lead him to victory. In the set of requirements, an amazing system was described.

It seems that the quality of operating systems or computer platforms almost does not affect their fate. Or influences, but not at all as it should be. True, all the best of the best disappeared creations of the human genius is adopted by the survivors, making them a little better.

Continuation. The beginning , the previous parts here , here and here .

Computer and operating system names
I will call all the computers from Be “BeBox”. This is their official name, but it’s not so simple with him. It came into circulation only in 1995, and appeared spontaneously. No one came up with it specially. Until 1995, computers of their design were called in the company in different ways. Often they were called “computer”, sometimes in a French accent.

The very first, “small-batch” version was called Be Machine. Steve Sakoman collected in his garage 30 copies of Be Machine, for the company’s employees. Naturally, he was helped by employees, even the head of the company – but Steve’s 12-year-old son was the main and most useful assistant.

Operation Be Machine identified shortcomings, and generated numerous ideas for improving the computer. Actually, it was for this purpose that they were “released” in such a large circulation. They even used the accountant of the company, and the office manager. Therefore, very soon, the computer specialists in computer development began to differ significantly from Be Machine.

Someone called it Be-1, in tune with B-1 (like a bomber), and it caught on. And Be on the processors PPC-603, of course, became Be-2. But soon this name, also spontaneously, changed to BeBox.

It was made official. Jean-Louis did not want the computer name to have numbers. Strange mania, somewhat resembles the style of Jobs. BeBox it quite satisfied. The name was not only adopted – it was used retrospectively to refer to previous computer models. Those same 30 Be Machine were now called the Hobbit BeBox. By the way, collectors have each such machine now almost a million dollars, but they were left alone, they never came to free sale.

The operating system was called BeOS at the same time, when they realized that without writing their own system can not do.

Summary of requirements
The system should not have occupied hundreds of megabytes on the disk. That’s why Unix was not even considered as a candidate for the role of the operating system for BeBox.

It should have a kernel (low-level system service responsible for basic operations – processes, threads, job scheduler, semaphores, zones, ports, communication between processors, etc.).

Among the necessary features of the system were crowding multitasking, secure virtual memory, multithreading, and support for multiprocessor configurations.

For important aspects of the system, its internal “servers” had to answer, in the case of purchasing the system on the side, they could be renamed as anything, but they all had to be executed in separate processes, possibly with multiple threads. Application Server (responsible for running and initializing programs), Storage Server (fixed memory management), Audio Server, Net Server and others.

From the system design and to its most important processes (such as system startup, thread and process management, messaging between processes control, network and peripheral management, TCP / IP support, etc.) required:

purity and intelligibility of implementation (only intelligible mechanisms can be monitored);
detailed and clear documentation;
openness (for the “smart” user).
With all the evidence of these requirements, they were never written down in technical specifications, and paid no attention to their compliance.

Not surprisingly, it took a lot of time and energy to find a third-party operating system. What’s more surprising is that there was an operating system in the world, Chorus OS, which met almost all these requirements.

The requirements list was restored “in fact”: in the technical documentation, with incredible clarity and clarity, even those elements and processes of the operating system are described, which are usually confusing, contradictory and bordering on magic. This vault itself has never been published.

BeOS
Accurate implementation of the requirements for the system required from the developers about the same amount of time as it takes to develop operating systems in which these requirements are formulated vaguely.

In BeOS, there were temporary deviations from these rules, when developers did not have time, but it was temporary. At the end of the credit, at any cost, the main principles must be restored.

At the quiet stage of system development, with particular care, the nature of the hobbits was taken into account.

The influence of the hobbits was mostly positive: almost all the source code of BeOS was written in C and C ++. Including low-level. Due to this, the system managed to be transferred to fundamentally different architectures relatively easily. Relatively.

In the part of the set of requirements known to me, there is not one associated with the user interface. This is not accidental. Resigned to the inevitable, Jean-Louis allowed to write his own system, but everything that is connected with the interface, the window and graphics systems, he stubbornly postponed.

As it turned out, he was looking for a suitable “donor”, hoping to solve the interface issue, at least by winning time.

In 1992, Steve Horowitz, a recent university graduate, a connoisseur of user interfaces and an abnormally large number of programming languages, joined the company. His first task was to study PostScript. The person was engaged in favorite business, and for it received the decent salary, in the company which obviously did not suffer from surplus of money.

He was tormented by remorse, until he was told his main task.

Graphics and user interface

Window operating system from Sun Microsystems, written in Display PostScript, Jean-Louis intended to use as a graphical interface BeOS. Or as the basis of this interface.

Steve Horovitz was entrusted with the entire range of issues related to the adaptation of NeWS in BeOS. I think Jean-Louis woke up at night in a cold sweat, remembering that if NeWS was found to be suitable, it would be necessary to negotiate the acquisition of licenses from two monsters (from Sun Microsystems and from Adobe Systems). It would not be easy, but it was necessary to buy time.

Steve Horovitz forced NeWS to “move” in BeOS, but came to the conclusion that the transfer of this system to BeOS and its adaptation will take an unrealistic lot of time. He described in detail the complexity of transfer and adaptation, and explained why they are unrealistic.

Now you also need to do the graphics yourself with the window system and the user interface?

But then it turned out that Benoit Schillings, not telling anyone about it, was quietly working on his version of the graphics system with all its subsystems, from scratch – and already achieved a lot. Even the busiest people should have free time. Otherwise, at a difficult hour, such miracles will simply be impossible.

Benoit became the head of the graphics and interface department, and Steve Horovets – an employee of this department.

The user interface of the system was also discussed by the whole company. Strangely enough, the result is one of the best user interfaces in the industry. Although, perhaps, that’s why.

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