Different Branches: NeXT, Newton, and BeOS

Welcome to Different Branches. For my first entry, I’m providing an introduction and what to expect from this column in the future.

My name Seb Payne, and I’m from the sunny United Kingdom. Ever since the first 80286 computer entered our household, I’ve been interested in alternative platforms and technologies. At that time, my primary school was filled with various Macs, none of them very powerful or particularly interesting, but they gave me a great sense of satisfaction when using them, something our ‘286 with GEM and DOS didn’t.

Eventually, with the help of Low End Mac, I switched to the Mac in 2001 with a glorious Power Mac G3 Blue & White, but my interest and passion for alternative technologies has remained.

That’s the aim of this column: To examine the platforms, hardware, and software that are connected to Apple but never took the centre stage.


NeXT logoThe history of NeXT is a fascinating one, and The Second Coming of Steve Jobs (Alan Deutschman) provides better insight than I can into the history of the company, its failures, and its eventual buyout by Apple.

NeXTstationThe NeXT computers themselves had near-perfect design, with software that was revolutionary and continues to be so. NeXTstep, which was later named OpenStep, provided the foundation for Mac OS X, and you’d be amazed a the similarities between the two. The first time I ran OpenStep, I thought, “Oh, that’s the same” and “so is that!”

That’s one platform I’ll be looking at.


BeOS logoBe doesn’t have a technological connection to Apple, but it has a spiritual and personal link. The founder of Be, Jean-Louis Gassée, was a victim of John Sculley and the Apple board when he didn’t deliver what was expected of him.

Jean-Louis Gassée

Jean-Louis Gassée

With similar goals to NeXT, Be failed in the hardware sector – and eventually in the software sector as well. With increased competition from Microsoft and Apple (who decided to close off their hardware to BeOS), the company was sold to PalmSource in 2001.

BeOS continues to live in Zeta and Haiku, both of which we’ll be taking a look at.

BeOS was the runner up to NeXT when Apple decided to acquire a third-party operating system in 1997.


Newton logoWith the iPhone drawing ever-closer, the rumors spiral – and, as one journalist pointed out, “Many have said the iPhone looks like what the Newton would have become if Apple hadn’t killed it off.” Along with some new technologies, some old technologies from Newton are very likely to be inside the iPhone.

Newton MessagePad 130Newton played a very important role in launching the PDA industry, and the underlying technology still amazes people today. The handwriting recognition and unique operating system are just two examples that makes Newton special.

That’s a sample of three platforms we’re going to focus on in Different Branches. All of them have a diverse history, and each of them has something to give to modern computing.

There are many more things that we’ll cover in the future. I’m really looking forward to delving into the depths of these platforms that are often underestimated and forgotten by most experts today.

Hopefully, you’ll be coming back soon to read more about some forgotten gems.

Further Reading

Keywords: #beos #newton #next

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