December 3, 2019

Inspired by @Jack’s ode to his old blog sidebar, here is my BeOS desktop from February 2003. I was interested to see what we could learn about computing back then from it.

My Proudest Day

The first thing that struck me was that Slashdot was still a site that I would check religiously and even post to occasionally — the whole reason for the screenshot is that I had a post on the front page of Slashdot! Back then the concept of Linux on the desktop’ was a big thing and it’s ironic to see Slashdot is still waiting for it to happen in 2019.

This is a screenshot from my triple-boot homemade PC that ran Windows Me, Linux and BeOS and most of the time I just ran BeOS because BeOS was wonderful. Coming to it from a Windows world I was blown away by how responsive it was as an operating system and just how many revolutionary features it provided — as Scot Hacker says in his Tales of a BeOS Refugee, the grace of the Mac and the power of Unix in one place.

Jack’s post highlights his blog sidebar comes from the early days of Mozilla Firefox when it was still called Firebird” or Phoenix”. The browser running Slashdot is a version of Phoenix for BeOS with a very basic early icon by the look of things. At the time one could run other browsers too; NetPositive was built-in (but somewhat anaemic) and I even had a registered copy of Opera for BeOS available . At one time BeOS did look like the future.

That calendar in the bottom right of the desktop was called a Replicant, a self-contained part of one application embedded in another that could run without having to be invoked or started separately. There are still things about BeOS, particularly the database-like file system, I miss to this day. The ability to create arbitrary attributes for data such as, say, chapters’ for text files or anything else you could think of was really powerful; for instance allowing one to browse email directly by sender or date from within the file system. Being able to define persistent live’ queries for those file arbitrary systems attributes is something that my Mac has only recently caught up with.

Later in 2003 two things happened in September. My youngest daughter was born and I got my first Mac running OS X 10.2 Jaguar. At the time the rest of the story was the future…


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