The May General Meeting was held on May 11, 1996 at the Northern Virginia
Community College. The date was changed to accommodate the Memorial Day
weekend but the date was not all that changed! Due to the absence of Lawrence
Charters, I volunteered to conduct the meeting. As a candidate for Mac VP, I
thought it would be a good chance to get my feet wet. If only I had known then
what I know now!
Lawrence has a talent for making running the monthly meeting look easy.
It's not. There are a thousand little details that he does automatically that
a newbie like me has to think about. Least of your worries is coordination
with the presenters. They do this stuff all the time and know what they need.
It is the mundane little details like spare cords, connectors and little
details that makes you crazy.
I arrived at NOVA early for the meeting to find Beth, the office manager,
making signs with a magic marker. It seems we had been bumped from our normal
meeting location due to a community fair of some kind. This was news to all of
us and the people running the show at NOVA were, quite frankly, not very
apologetic about the problem. They offered us a classroom in the Nursing
school or nothing. We accepted the classroom. The second problem was that left
us with no backup audio-visual capability and, of course, due to a
communications mixup between Lorin Evans, Proxima and myself, the Proxima
projector failed to arrive for the meeting. Talk about baptism by fire! I was
now faced with explaining to the vendor why we were not able to provide them
with the facilities they were promised for their demo. Fortunately, they were
more than gracious and even understanding. Add to this that we had invited
members of the local Be User Group, Amiga User Group and Pentagon User Group
to the meeting, we had little or no air conditioning and you can understand
why I was becoming damp in the armpits.
We appropriated somebody's 14-inch PC monitor for the demo and placed it
on top of the large screen TV that NOVA had provided. It made a great monitor
stand, but without computer connectors, that's all it was good for. With
repeated and sincere apologies to those assembled and especially to the
presenters, we turned the meeting over to Be, Inc.
Be, Inc. of Menlo Park, California, is the manufacturer of the BeBox
computer. Be's CEO is Jean-Louis Gassee (formerly CEO of Apple Computer). It
contains dual Power PC 601/66 processors and lots of fantastic new software.
In fact, even though they are currently manufacturing and selling the BeBox,
they consider themselves primarily a software company. In fact, they fully
intend to support the PPCPC or CHRP or whatever the Apple/IBM/Motorola
consortium is currently calling the box that will run the MacOS and Windows NT
and maybe OS/2 and now, Be.
For now, however, they are manufacturing developer units, under license,
at a facility that used to be a Mac factory in Fremont, California. The BeBox
contains 2 PowerPC 601 CPUs running at 66 Mhz. It supports up to 256 MB of
memory and uses standard PC IDE or SCSI drives and other hardware. It uses PCI
SuperVGA controllers for video and also supports ISA standard Ethernet. It has
3 full-length PCI slots and 5 full-length ISA slots for expansion as well as a
PCI SCSI II controller and IDE controller for storage devices. It uses
PC-style keyboard and mouse, has a parallel and 4 serial ports, 2 MIDI ports,
2 joystick ports, 3 infrared controller ports and a "GeekPort," Be's general
purpose, connect-just-about-anything I/O port with A/D and D/A conversion. It
also features a 16-bit sound system with RCA line in/out jacks and stereo
microphone and headphone jacks. It has TCP/IP built in. In fact the back of
the machine is packed with connectors of just about every flavor except one
‹ no Mac video-out, hence the requirement to use the PC monitor for the
demo. It also ships, for now, with a complete application development suite
including an Object-Oriented C++ development suite, Metrowerks CodeWarrior
development environment and set of code libraries and documentation.
Speaking of the demoŠ Considering the curves we threw at them, what
with a cramped facility for the 200+ people who attended and doing the demo on
a 14-inch PC monitor, they were fantastic! Mark Gonzalez and Dominic Giampaolo
of Be were certainly among the best presenters I have seen lately. Mark gave
most of the presentation while Dominic was the "designated mouser" and
fountain of technical knowledge. They knew their product inside and out and
also took the less-than-optimal situation in stride. I hope they come back in
a few months when applications are shipping, and show us what they and their
development partners have been up to.
It is the Be operating system that supplies the magic to the BeBox. It is
a real-time, preemptive multitasking, multi-threading operating system with a
built-in database. Quite frankly, it blew my socks off! Fast, agile and
powerful are words that come to mind. Some of this is because they don't have
10 years of "legacy compatibility" code, (you know, the code that lets today's
Mac run the original MacWrite), but there are lots of super innovations that
make this system unique. My personal favorite was the "active window dragging"
feature. When you click on a window and drag it, the program in the window
just keeps on running. There is none of that "clear and redraw" stuff that
happens on the Mac. The 3-D rendering of the Be logo just kept twirling away
as Dominic moved the window around the screen.
The demo continued showing innovation after innovation in the system. The
file system as well as application data can be stored in the system database.
This means that "live" queries can be written so that when a values change in
the database, they are automatically and instantly available to the running
applications. This type of message passing capability is the wave of the
future, but it is available now from Be.
Following the demo, the presenters invited everyone down for a look at
BeBox and further discussions. Many of the developers in the audience cornered
Dominic on the arcana while the more general questions were handled by Mark.
Everyone seemed quite impressed and despite the problems with the meeting site
and equipment, many people had glowing praise for the demo.
The meeting concluded, as usual with giveaways. Be had "We Be geeks"
pocket protectors and data sheets for all. Other winners:
Be T-shirts (Be, Inc): Wilmer Whetzel, Jr., John McDowell, Jay Hill, Beth
Cobb, John Maslin, Jacob Freedman, Tom Bryan, John Henry, Atilla Horvath,
Clifton Bailey, Dave Weikert, Pat Garvey, Rich McCall, S. Marney, Gayle Liles,
Victoria Staubly, Christopher Cobb, Vince Wolodkin, Mike Murphy, Frank
Zappacosta and Robert Pagelsen.
Apple User Group Connection Mousepads (User Group Connection): Leon Chan,
Fabian Jimenez and James Dempsey.
Photoshop 4 Book: Jim Kast.
Mac Draw Pro book: Myron Harrison.
Pagemaker 5 book: Andrew Lipinski
Word 6 book: Larry Ichter
Pagemaker book: Dr. Paula Botstein
Pagemaker book: Harold Crumley
Photoshop Book: Edward Kelty
Freehand Bible: Dr. William McBeath
Design Studio book: Toru Kawate
I sure hope this list is accurate. Considering the chaos, we did our best
to keep track. If it's wrong, please accept my apology. I'm still in the
learning curve and will try to get up to speed as quickly as possible.
Hopefully, meetings will soon be humming along smoothly as before.