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In 1996, a new operating system was introduced to the world by a company called simply "Be". Its product, the BeOS, was intended to be an alternative to the "big" operating systems used by most people. Support for PowerPC (Apple hardware platform) came first, and then in 1998, BeOS for x86 (PC) computers was released. BeOS was developed from the "ground up" and was intended to be especially suited for dealing with multimedia applications, such as video and audio, on consumer-level hardware. To the PC user dissatisfied with Microsoft operating systems, BeOS represents another important option. While still a very small percentage of the overall operating system market (and for that reason mostly ignored in traditional hardware and software circles) it is the choice of a number of PC hobbyists and power users.
BeOS's primary file system is its own, the BeOS File System, alternately abbreviated as BFS or befs. This file system is unique to BeOS, but from my understanding most resembles a UNIX-type file system. One of BeOS's strengths, however, is that to encourage its use by those already running other operating systems, Be has built into BeOS the capability of accessing a multitude of other file systems. BeOS can read or write to FAT12, FAT16, VFAT and HPFS partitions. Support for FAT32 has either been added to the operating system recently, or is available through a third-party add-on. BeOS can even read NTFS partitions with the appropriate tool added, though it cannot write to them.
My experience with BeOS would be best categorized as follows: "Between Slim and Nil, with Slim having just left town". (Hey, honesty is supposed to be a virtue. :^) ) Any of you BeOS aficionados who find anything incorrect in what I have written above, please let me know. While I don't use BeOS myself I think it is important that alternative operating systems be at least given a fair mention when discussing PC hardware.
Next: PC File Systems