BeOS Review Extras: A peek at the old website and pre-R3 topics

A Dock, a Browser, and an old website.

Andrew Greimann
Jul 25, 2019 · 8 min read

(Also available on my Be and Haiku blog, Isometric Leaves).

It’s been wonderful writing this BeOS Retro Review series going from R3 to Dano, but one thing that kept getting to me was how the releases before R3 had visually been so different from the desktop model centered around the Deskbar that we know today.

At least at the time I’ve written this, I don’t have the Performa 6400 or one of the specific Power Macintosh models from the 7–9000 series needed to run a copy of BeOS before R3, which causes the Installer to mention my Mac is not supported. And also… I confess I don’t have a BeBox or a Macintosh clone like a StarMax box around either, and this is why I started the series at R3 for Intel and went forward.

Somehow, (maybe because I did start the articles at R3), I felt the series really wouldn’t Be complete (pun intended) without a look at Be’s old website and some notes about the past in between screenshots, so if you’re into reading a bit of extra stuff, I hope you’ll enjoy this extra part of the BeOS series.

And so, equipped with the Internet Archive and the Haiku operating system, we can go back and take a look at the old website for the sake of history…

Once upon a dock…

The first stop is to Be’s old home page back in 1996. And the reason I wanted to stop here is because of an important detail in it.

Notice the bar on the left side of the Web page under the Be logo. What this design of the site’s navigation bar represented was a piece of the UI from when this page was made. In the days of the Developer Releases, the system used a dock design similar to this, and referred to the file manager as the “Browser” before the Tracker was introduced later. (For those that are skeptical of this, if you look closely at the left side of the monitor in the picture, you’ll see the dock. And there are PDFs of the DR8 user guide floating around on the Web and on this page of the old Be website illustrate how the Be desktop used to look and work.)

(Oh, and, for the fun of it, you might also notice I’ve set the Deskbar in Haiku to somewhat mimic this old feel, but obviously, it’s not the same). Still, I hope everyone enjoys seeing it there anyway…

If you look closely at the Products page around this time, the Dock also makes an appearance in the little screenshot there too:

And here’s the link to the above page for the interested.

The BeOS dock would have space for stuff that could be pinned to it, and from what I’ve read, some things could even be pinned over each other (if that happened, a paper fold or ‘dog ear’ would appear on the edge of a block). Also, the view could be changed as well to either appear like blocks with the text underneath (in a view that looked like what’s on the above screenshot) or it could be set to take on a thin, tiled appearance. And the top menus were the active menus for that application and a switcher.

By the time the Preview Release was around, the TrackBar and the Tracker were part of the system. More info can be found on the tour page thanks to the Internet Archive. The picture below is taken directly from the above link to the “BeOS Tour”, and the filename refers to it as DR9Screen2_sm.gif. But interestingly, the versions on the BeOS page on Wikipedia don’t mention “DR9”, so this must have been an internal name for the release afterward:

And if we fast forward to the 1997 version of the page, notice how the navigation bar on the side has now switched to a Deskbar like appearance (probably the TrackBar at this point in time) over the old design (although the items are still grouped like they would be in a dock).

Nevertheless, I wanted to dwell on this for a minute, because I think the crazy part (and why so many people that are new to the BeOS don’t know there was ever a dock) is because of how quickly it seemed to come and go in the timeline. So, when we started out in R3, the DeskBar was the default…

Screenshot of the desktop in color from the R3 review.

Grateful for R3

Despite not seeing a Dock there, the good news is that because R3 had brought a lot of the old Be look and feel to Intel, it remains a historic gem to visit. So even though we didn’t get to see DR1–8 or the Preview Release, looking at Release 3 had taken us back to 1998, and it is rather amazing how much we were able to see (before subsequent versions would refine and quietly remove several gems from the past).

With that said, though we missed out on pre-R3 items like Orb (which I’m assuming as a dude out of the 1990s was for Orb drives), HeapWatch, FontChart, Edit (the plain text predecessor to StyledEdit), or ImageViewer (what came before ShowImage), we did get to see several other tidbits in R3 like a brief flash of PlaySound and a look at IconWorld.

Shown below is a colorized screenshot of the Deskbar apps folder from the R3 Review:

And thankfully, because the demos stayed around from 3 to 4.5, we were able to see 3dmov, BeBounce, Calah, Container, Dominos, Flight, Kaleidoscope, and Life before they disappeared from R5.

Shown below is a colorized screenshot of the Deskbar demos folder from the R3 Review:

And in Preferences, we got to see vintage settings like Boot, which would completely disappear in later releases. Also, the old version of Screen with the desktop color palette and other older versions of preferences were there as well. (And finally, even though Sound didn’t open, we did get to see Audio in 4.0.)

Shown below is a colorized screenshot of the Deskbar preferences folder from the R3 Review:

Links to the old BeOS website…

But I didn’t just want to talk about the stuff before R3 alone (although I do feel that doing so completes this series somewhat). There’s a whole treasure trove of history in looking at the old site.

What is incredible about the Internet Archive is that it allows us to travel back as virtual visitors to the past without the need to borrow a time machine. It’s really intriguing to think of it that way, as even though we can’t physically enter the late 1990s, we can revisit sites that were made during that time, for that time.

And since the 1997 version appears to be an early and reliable snapshot, here’s a link to the support page from that year, thanks to the Internet Archive.

There’s tons of info that can be found from the navigation bar (particularly in the Support and About Be page, where there’s links to contact and press info, old press releases, links to the user guide, and much, much more). It’s a delightful place for geeks looking to re-experience the past history of Be.

Also, here is a link to a 2001 version of the page that shows the concentration on “Internet Appliances” (or the BeIA platform), which I feel is really historic as I believe pouring both energy and resources into a market whose ideas were ahead of the technology of the time may have been one of the possible reasons the company went under.

… also, don’t forget the hard disk!

In addition to having the archived versions of the website available, one of the cool parts about the old BeOS is that there’s also the documentation folder (for any readers that aren’t already aware of it), which has a nice directory of local Web pages that include system alerts, a welcome guide, a copy of the Be Book, questions/answers, shell tools (for those interested in shell scripting, etc.), release notes and/or what’s new in some versions, and other tidbits of info that can always be accessed locally from disk:

Re-colorized version of the documentation folder from R3.

And… that’s it!

While there’s plenty of pages, documents, and screenshots we could’ve looked at, the idea is to get a general feel of both the time and of the Be world through looking at artifacts on the old website.

Overall, from this last article to the first one in the series, I truly hope that you enjoyed it and thank you for reading it! It’s been awesome doing this series, and I hope that it benefits computer users and anyone interested in Be history everywhere.

I really, really like this stuff — and hope you do too! :-)

And hey, it takes time for me to bring all this together. If you like it, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please support me on Patreon! Either way, again, thanks for reading (especially this part)!

Want to read more?

Feel welcome to visit my list of articles:

Andrew Greimann

Written by

Enthusiastic Be/Haiku and Mac geek. Come check out my blog!

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