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A 66mhz PPC603 BeBox!

Never, in my wildest fantasies, would I have thought I'd be the owner of one of these! Of course, caveats-be-caveats: it was listed as non-working and needing-work. How much work would it actually need?

First thing's first... a proper source of information was required. Thankfully, The BeBox Zone has been recorded by the web.archive in all of its glory!

Which revision?

Prior to receiving the unit, I asked which Revision it was, just so that I could get ahead of any problems. Turns out these machines had quite a lengthy Revision history and, well, I could be in for a lot of pain. For even more information, here's a great page with information on the differening revisions. Also, if I was to receive an earlier revision than v6, here's what happens when you try to upgrade a Rev.05?. Fortunately, the answer came back that it was to be a Revision 6! This meant any BeOS would work on it... as long as the CPUs could hold out.

Video Card?

The author had mentioned that the machine probably needed RAM and a new video card. I started googling and found a lot of conflictcing information... or just information that only pertained to newer x86 BeOS versions. Fortunately, if you go way back, there's a cache of the old Be site here with a list of the valid hardware for the BeBox! The good cards listed are:

  • Cirrus Alpine 5434
  • STB Systems Nitro PCI 1.5 (5434)
  • Cirrus J6NGD543XPCI (5434)
  • Number Nine GXE64 (864)
  • Diamond Stealth 64 DRAM T PCI (Trio64)
  • Expert Color Trio64 PCI

Now, I'm sure that newer/cooler video cards are supported for BeOS, so I'm thinking this page is dated somewhere around BeOS 3.0? It's listed as 1999. I also know that I had a beautiful Diamond Stealth in the junk box last year and sold it. What was I possibly going to use it for?!

So, actually, it seems that BeOS R4.5 was the last known good OS for this model of BeBox. What cards does it support OOTB? There's a hardware compatibility list here, and it's sad to see that's the last version of the page... seems the domain expired not long after! Here's the PPC-specific notes which then points to a Q&A URL for the BeBox that was never captured. But, slapping that into Google brings back the original page... and we complete a loop as it's the same link as the first one above!

Based on list above, I managed to source a Diamond Stealth in PCI format, prior to even receiving the BeBox!

Sound Card?

You don't need to worry about sound as it's all on-board. There's even an internal speaker, just like any good Macintosh.


You'll find the requirements here, but the basic idea is 60nz 72-pin non-parity. Parity will work, but the parity function won't be employed. Sizes can be mixed and matched in pairs.

The author mentioned that RAM might be an issue, so I also purchased a few matching-sticks in advance.

Network Card?

There was no mention of an included network card, so I started googlin'. Looks like I'd need an NE2000 compatible ISA card. The other alternative is the DEC 21040/21041 on PCI. You'll find 3Com 3C509 drivers over here. I just don't have one of those cards anymore... yes... I sold one last year also! I really think I'll be able to install an RTL8139 ... but the bebits archive only has a version for Intel.

Reviewing other people's problems...

Just because there was time... and that this is a very vintage machine... and that google returns some quickly-damning results, I fell down the rabbit hole of other user's tales of woe. Not to be discouraged, it's great to read through such articles to understand what I might have been in for?

Pick-up day!

This is all in hind-sight, so I need to come clean. I was visiting Canberra to see my grandfather in hospital. It was the first weekend I was there that I also arranged to pick up this unit, and, call it bittersweet timing, but it was serendipitous that I grabbed this and got to say goodbyes. I can't word this well, but there was extra value added to the unit.

It even came in the original box!? Pretty rotten, but a great momento! Would you believe I never took a pic of the whole unit fresh outta the box? Instead, I delved straight into the issues...

Being away-from-home, a quick inspection was really all that I could do. The whole unit was in amazing condition! The only real physically-obvious issue was the "jack nuts" (as I now find they're called) on the ports on the rear and they were quickly replaced.

I take that back... not so quickly..

And then...

Only needing a little bit of extra effort!

Powering the beast on!

So, I got back to Melbourne and gave it a once-over. All checked out, so I slapped in a power cable and hit the switch on the rear. Fans spun up, HDDs also, but no life. Thanks to the previously-received RAM, I swapped out the existing two SIMMs with another pair. Before long... we had POST!

What? It just works? There was no video output on my shitty little VGA LCD, so I plugged in my nearest Trinitron. Whatttttttt.....

I had no input devices... so I just hit the switch with a STUPID grin on my face.

Upgrading BeOS

I grabbed a 3.2 BeOS BOOT ROM UPGRADE from some random site and wrote it to a floppy... which booted!

From there, I skipped ahead to BeOS 4.5, as I'd bought the box back in 1999 with two other friends from The Software Shop in Phillip, ACT.

The floppy was useless, but holding down spacebar let me get the boot menu...

And yes, the CD was visible, and even booted!

Such a familiar screen! A spare SCSI HDD was inserted to install 4.5 onto. This required the removal of two screws, allowing access to the tray...

Haha... you should've heard the noise when power was applied to that revolting Apple SCSI HDD. It was quickly replaced. Note that this unit also has an IDE bus, so I can easily upgrade to larger disks in the future... and proper burners!

Time to tinker...


The OS installed in no time and rebooted to a familiar desktop. The unit came with an RTL8139 ISA card which happily worked as an ISA NE2000?

And I could ping away!

What's next?

DOOM is next. WON, from the experimental folder, failed to find my AFP and SAMBA shares, so I need to find a proper SMB client from somewhere. All links are turning up 404 so far. Sheepshaver also needs to go on there with a captive version of Mac OS 8.5. This page also hints at other software I should install.

Filed under: Retro 2 Comments