Here's how QNX looked in 1999 running off a 1.44MB floppy

By Bla1ze on 5 Aug 2014 04:40 pm EDT

For a lot of folks, QNX is something new mostly unheard of and as we noted earlier, they work behind the scenes to make cool things we all come across in our daily lives and don't often collect much credit for it. Until BlackBerry acquired the company, a lot of QNX talk was held to the hardcore computer community, BBS boards and even mailing lists but now interest in the organization is growing.

As people become more familiar with QNX and the history, there's more eyes out there looking for information surrounding the company as well and when CrackBerry Forums member, edyb, came across a floppy labeled QNX he decided to fire it up and find out what exactly it contained.

I found a QNX demo from 1999. It demonstrates the amazing efficiency, speed and tiny size of the QNX Real time POSIX OS and Neutrino technology, which later will become the foundations for the BlackBerry 10 OS after BlackBerry acquired QNX! The entire operating system, web browser, web server, several demo apps and more all fit on a 1.44mb floppy! That is about the size of a single photo on your phone! Nice piece of history that had to be shared... and to think that I almost threw out this floppy disk with all the rest!

Pretty interesting to see an entire OS running on a 1.44MB floppy. For comparisons sake, Windows 98 came on 39 DMF formatted floppy disks if you chose that method, though it was rather abnormal to go that route when it originally shipped as a CD-ROM. If you go looking around, there's still plenty of ways to run what's shown off in the video yourself provided you have some older gear. Remember kids, don't copy that floppy!

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Topics: QNX News & Rumors

Reader comments

Here's how QNX looked in 1999 running off a 1.44MB floppy


Among the many reasons that I should be rocking a phone called the QNX Z30. Imagine the cool new QNX OS would have been in the market, instead of the boat anchor name of BlackBerry. With all due respect, to BlackBerry.

Posted via CB10

QNX has a terrible reputation among older computer users. Neutrino was basically the reason why Gateway's acquisition of Amiga failed. QNX didn't deliver any distinguishing advantage. Actually, they really didn't even deliver. They just used the joint venture to finance their own lame efforts at a desktop OS, which failed in the marketplace. And instead of three major desktop OS platforms, we were left with two -- PC and Mac. Ironically, QNX may be doing the same thing with BlackBerry, under performing and providing no competitive advantage to sell phones. And, we'll probably end up with Android and iOS as the only two remaining mobile OS platforms that matter.

Younger users don't know any of the above history. But, they also don't know QNX as a brand, at all. It has close to zero brand value. I don't even think the car companies use the brand in marketing QNX Auto. I'm not sure what QNX as a brand represents to end users, anyway? Maybe stability.

BlackBerry's brand has been marred. It's seen better days, for sure. But, it still means something to many people -- I think productivity and physical keyboards come to mind for most. But, QNX doesn't mean anything to most people -- particularly younger people. You might as well come up with an entirely new brand.

Anyway, I don't mean to be negative, but I can't even imagine carrying a "QNX Z30." Yuck.

Posted via CB10

Um, that's not exactly the case. Neutrino really had very little to do with the Amiga debacle. It was one of the options which commodore/gateway/et al. bungled on execution. I have the 1.44 QNX demo disc for my A4000 (still working), and that's really as far as QNX got with making an Amiga OS. Probably the biggest reason nothing came of it was a fight between Amiga Inc, Hyperion, and Haage & Partner over who owned the rights to the Amiga OS. By the time the dust settled and the suit ended, it didn't matter. Amiga Inc used Neutrino for their Amiga anywhere project, but this had nothing to do with the system os. Actually, the QNX demo was quite impressive on the amiga, but remember, the Amiga OS only took 4 or so floppies in the first place, as a good portion was in rom a la the Mac.

Sorry, but I am going to have to flame you for what you said:


QNX basically owns the embedded space, and that demo video basically explains why. They had a 15 year head start on technology we all use today. HTML, Web connectivity and Microkernals. Basically that demonstration was the earliest form of the "Internet of things" ever. Mix in the fact that QNX now supports every friggen processor available, gives you full html5, Android ASOP, and more standards than any operating system out there - there is no company who would dare go into embedded without using QNX - it's cheap - small - compatible and reliable.

at least 80% of the embedded world conference featured companies who built their tech on top of QNX.
So to you as a consumer "QNX" may have no brand value. but... if you used any of these:
- Twitter
- Facebook
- Youtube
- Smart Light switches
- 911
- Any in car roadside support system
- The power grid
- A traffic control system
- Eat food (food inspection systems)
- Anything requiring mass ground transport (logistics/GPS systems - like coffee transport)
- Online shopping
- An action movie (that requires motion control characters)
- Take a train
- A blackberry
- A plane
- A boat
- A spaceship
- A hospital
- Snail Mail
- Washing machine or a fridge with an advanced console
- A car entertainment system

The odds are, you were using QNX. (or elrang. or erlang on QNX, which is still QNX)

The value of QNX is the fact that you DO NOT know about it... Because the last thing you want is the train to stop with a blue screen of death error and a flashy QNX logo saying "something went wrong :("

I have never read a better rebuttal on this site then this one. Bravo! You should work for Blackberry Marketing. With gusto like that and the conviction to deliver no other Mobile maker has a chance against BlackBerry. Cheers

Posted via CB10 on my Q10

You have exactly proven BlackBerryFan777 comment.

He is not judging the value of the QNX product, he is judging the value of the QNX beans. Everything you said above, well any iOS and Android user also benefit from them.

So the real question is does QNX bring anything to the BlackBerry 10 OS, or the same could have been achieved with a simple Linux kernel.

The argument of the real time OS is something (basically, you have a central orchestrator that dispatches the events to other services that are subscribed to each kind of event), but is this enough to differentiate from iOS and Android that do not use QNX but in the end are not slower than BB10.

I am not saying QNX is junk, but if I compare the speed at which the PlayBook OS and BlackBerry 10 were developed (on top of QNX), and the speed at which the car systems based on QNX evolve (meaning rice as slow as anything made by the competition), my conclusion is rather that QNX is a good tool, just like Linux, but it really depends on the people who use it to make something that is both competitive and with a differentiator factor.

Posted via CB10

Let's compare speed.

- Microsoft: Windows Phone: version 7-2010, version 7.5-2011, version 8 (need new phones)-2012, version 8.1-2014 (not yet distributed through carriers)
- Apple iOS: each major iteration out-dates a previous generation of phones. ios5 - 2011, ios6 - 2012, ios7 - 2013.
- Google Android: 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwhich-2011, 4.1 Jelly Bean-2012, 4.4 Kit Kat-2013 - each major release requires something short of a miracle if it gets pushed to a phone through a carrier.
- BlackBerry 10.0 - Jan 2013, BlackBerry 10.1 - May 2013, BlackBerry 10.2 - Sept 2013, BlackBerry 10.2.1 Jan 2014

Seeing that BlackBerry is the smallest of the companies, they are producing the most significant updates without making their phones obsolete at a much more rapid pace. This is because of the flexibility of the architecture many teams can work independently on low level features - Windows Phone, for example is moving towards having facebook messenger as an App taking it out of it's hub - Where as BlackBerry has had no problems keeping facebook messenger inside the hub.

I would argue that QNX is the better of the embedded operating systems, and perhaps, one of the reasons why BlackBerry has not gone under as a company. So QNX may provide no brand value, but it's technology is keeping BlackBerry competitive/afloat, and is spearheading Internet of Things movement.

oh. and a last note about the competition:

That "slow" in-car development of technology is a result of the need of a fail-safe and tested everything. You o2 sensor needs to work even if your dashboard doesn't. QNX can provide this, android can only provide a "tablet in the car" rather than a diagnostic and control system for the car. In case you were wondering.

Nah, that's not old school floppy. An old school floppy was 5 1/2" square and really was floppy! We used to buy the single sided ones and punch holes on the opposite sides to turn them into double sided floppies.

Posted via CB10

Ahhhh yes, you got me there :) I programmed in high school on a the 5 1/2 ones, but the word processors at NAIT at that time still used the larger ones. Thankfully they got rid of the punch cards before I started my schooling at NAIT.

Posted via CB10

7" floppy disks
5.25" floppy disks
3.5" plastic disks
Then the fat IOmegaZip drives
Then the CDRW
Then the DVD±W
And now the USB thumbdrives.

Posted via CB10

I remember booting this up and playing with it.
Back in the day I was into alternative OSs, Linux, bsd, anything that wasn't windows

Posted via CB10

Hey there,

I stilll remember those days when I used to download and install any and all available alternative OSs. Once even downland a QNX desktop iso image and installed as well. I remember it was very pleasing to the eyes.

Posted via CB10 from my Z30

... network.iso unavailable?

Modem one downloads...

 BlackBerry? I premdict the future's gonna be chenomenal! 

Would qnx ever be available as possible replacement for windows as a desktop os? That public could use? Could be interesting replacement for windows or even other OS. Just a thought...

Posted via CB10

Probably not since there would have to have a lot of bloatware added to it like office suites, Browsers, and drivers for the myriad of hardware out there. I don't think QNX's strategy is for desktops, it is more for embedded systems.

Posted via CB10 1.5.0 on my Z10 on the Rogers Network

Actually, we could simply recompile many of the applications and software that's already available for Linux and bsd distributions.

If QNX had remained open source, there would potentially be more developers willing to do stuff for QNX, BlackBerry and BlackBerry 10.

But then on the other hand, this could be my own misconception. Can anyone confirm this?

Thank you for that! I just had an interesting little rabbit chase on QNX. Very informative! I found it interesting to see that QNX is described as Unix-like. As we know Linux is a variant of Unix and Android is a variant of Linux (one of many it seems). So that may be why Android can run okay overtop BB10. Now I realize that there are lots of tweaks and changes, so it's not necessarily accurate, but an interesting thought.

Posted via CB10

No there is no relation.

Android can run on BB10 because the runtime is open source and can be compiled with C++.

Just like Adobe Flash can run because libs are available with C++.

The fact that Android is based on Linux has nothing to do with it.

Posted via CB10

Actually it can be used as a replacement desktop OS, if you can get your hands on it. This used to be more available before BlackBerry bought them and they weren't trying to make money by releasing to consumers.

Posted via CB10

It was even open source for while before BlackBerry acquired it. I wish they will change the mind again...

Posted via CB10

QNX is probably the reason why the competition is so keen on burying BlackBerry before BB10 has the chance to really take off.

Sent from my BlackBerry Z30

Absolutely. QNX is clearly the best mobile OS, and it's still young. The future is bright. Sometimes the best rises to the top. Sometimes not, but with Chen at the helm, I have a feeling it will.

Posted via CB10

Not sure about the top, at least not in the short term. That said, I still feel it is the best and deserves that recognition. It's still a long way to go and I feel that QNX should be a leader if not one of the top major platforms in the long run.

Posted from my Tab 3 via Android CrackBerry App!

Wonder how BlackBerry managed to make BlackBerry OS 10 grow to about 2 GB (size of autoloader) and require 1.5-2.0GB RAM when the starting point was so small...

Posted via CB10

That's a pretty good question, especially when you look at the filesystem and a lot of it remains unchanged. I know a lot of the radios and such add to the overall size and thus, the RAM requirements go up but it would be interesting to see a breakdown of the size before BlackBerry and after BlackBerry to see where all those requirements are specifically.

A lot of it would likely be media data like pics, sounds, video etc... Also, the app suite and various runtimes add size.

As one poster already mentioned: including just a single quality JPEG image would already double the size of that version of QNX.

Posted via CB10

What you really need to consider is a comparison of MSDOS with the OS and maybe even an application on a floppy VS Windows 3. Then add all the code for all the apps bundled with BB10 that aren't in Windows 3.

The OS itself ( the kernel, disk driver and even a GUI console) are pretty small. Just adding libc, Qt and friends will account for a lot of that.

Posted via CB10

As a PlayBook user and Save the PlayBook channel owner, I have always wondered about this as well.

Posted from my Tab 3 via Android CrackBerry App!

I remember trying this out back in 1999! Never did get it online because my modem was unsupported, but it was still pretty cool. :)

Posted via CB10

A fully POSIX compliant rtos
File manager
Network and graphic drivers
Demo software

All under 1440 kB - the size of ONE good quality jpeg pic

It just shows you how much bloat is in today's software.

Posted via CB10

That's true! You encode all of QNX into a JPEG :) Wonder what that would look like lol.

Posted via CB10

The first time I really heard of it was around the time BlackBerry announced the next OS after BBOS:

Posted via CB10

That would have been qnx 4.x, right? Task based only, no thread capability and great monitoring that comes with Neutrino.
Plus very limited graphics and interface capabilities, blue tooth, ethernet, etc.

Official ( no leaks :( )

Yeah, Neutrino never really developed into a platform. Before BlackBerry acquired QNX, it really sucked. There's a reason why the PlayBook was basically a Flash Player on great hardware; QNX wasn't really a platform, it was a kernel. BlackBerry has done a ton of work building BB10 and QNX is 100 times better for it!

Posted via CB10

I can see why BlackBerry bought them. Pretty impressive that they can run all of that on a 1.44MB floppy.

Tried this very demo disk out back in 1999.

Brings back memories of dabbling with other Operating Systems after suffering Windows all day at work, and spending too much money on trying to bring my Commodore Amiga 1200 in to the 21st Century with all kinds of Frankenstein like motherboard add-ons and tower kits with SCSI devices. Great times.

At one point, 1999 if I'm not mistaken, QNX was going to be the basis of the "next generation" Amiga OS. The great Amiga magazines like Amiga Format and CU Amiga were where I first learned about the wonders of QNX. Little did I know back the that the wonders of QNX would become a daily part of my work and home life in 2013 with the launch of BlackBerry 10.

Posted from my BlackBerry Z30 STA100-2 / on O2 UK - Activated on BES10.2.3

Back in the early 90's I worked for a company that had a medical accounting software suite running on QNX. It was a great OS in those days.

I used QNX circa 1990. I was a junior software engineer for Motorola (this was when Motorola was actually good). QNX could replace dos and windows 3.1 on a PC. PC hardware was coming way down in price and custom h/w was expensive to develop, manufacture, maintain for small market applications. A PC had all the h/w you needed (you could add a card or 2 for special i/o needs). QNX fit the bill for certain radio controller applications. It was real-time (real real-time) and using it with off the shelf PC's was great and cheap. POSIX compliance did not even exist at the time (or was just rolling out to standardize the various API set for the various forms of Unix). It has morphed quite a bit over the years.

Que cool!! Old memories that floppy. We had a 386 running dos with the small floppies and the large ones too back in the 80's in Costa Rica! About QNX, well I just let people keep laughing about where BlackBerry stands... I will let the stocks and my pockets speak for themselves, while using my BB Passport.. cheers

Posted via CB10

Thinking about GeoWorks, full graphic environment, running on MSDOS, looking the same as later Windows3.11, but running on only one 5 1/4 (360k) bootable floppy disk. Talking about around 1988!!!

Editor, Painter, modem-connection, long filenames, cut-and-paste, dragging, all present.

Posted via CB10

GeoWorks... good old memories.

I was young and a dial up modem connecting at 2400 baud was the tiny Window to the BBS systems.

Gosh I sound old :-*

Posted via CB10

Did GeoWorks run on C-64 too? I remember running a little GUI on it and that name sounds familiar.

- developer of NeverMaze and Alpha Memory

Many people underestimated BlackBerry's QNX purchase. Many Bashers today continue to spread miss-information, consistently posting about why QNX was the companies worst acquisition to date.
Yet they've never tried a BB10 device and they continue to tell people BB10 is simply a very minor BB7 update. In other words, not worth an upgrade.

This is what John Chen is up against, the complete nonsense being spread, despite the facts. BlackBerry needs to start aggressively marketing BB10 powered by the all mighty QNX.

Posted on my Q5

Ah, yes, ..I remember it well. I got the link in a linux magazine. Quickly I got it onto a floppy and away I went dial up modem and all!! Sweet, who would have thought I'd meet it again!

Posted via CB10

I remember running that demo, it came out in early 1999. I probably still have the floppy somewhere. It was interesting to see.

- developer of NeverMaze and Alpha Memory

I do wish they would put out a "hobbyist" version. I tried their licensing department but they said no go without a commercial license, and even then, they want to hear the pitch first to verify that there would be $$ in the deal for them.

You can still download a 60 day trial if you poke around on the qnx site enough.

I wanted to cross compile a bunch of command line tools and copy them over to my phone. There are ways, but it's not trivial. Having qnx on the desktop would make it so much easier.

BRON: a cron-like scheduler for BlackBerry 10.

I have a few dozen floppy disks and a few boxes of 5.25" floppy disks, including the drive. Just needs a pentium 3 to drop it in and away I go.

Posted via CrackBerry 10 (CB10) application using my BlackBerry Q10.

Wow! That's BlackBerry innovation, it's just a matter of time before the masses realize the uniqueness of QNX powered BB10 Devices!BlackBerry will once again be a Dominant Force! I'm definitely on board for the long haul!

Posted by my QNX powered Z10

I had QNX demo disc years ago which I got at a Computer Fest, only reason I got it was because it had a 'Q' in it.

I was another adventurous soul who after seeing the demo, installed neutrino on my laptop. It used (from memory) the photonics gui. You could compile most of the same apps you got from linux, as qnx was fairly main stream back then. A simple ./configure would pick up qnx and everything would work. It even had some reasonable games.

I kept it until I discovered BeOS, which was another under appreciated OS.

Ah, yesteryear - thanks for the nostalgia trip :)

Posted via CB10

Very interesting stuff. I've wondered for a while now if anyone has any idea how much money QNX makes BlackBerry?

Posted via CB10

Ha! I had this official floppy demo when I buy a magazine on that date. Was a very useful system. Than, after some years qnx distributed a desktop more robust version. Very nice. Good to know that I can use qnx on cellphone.

Wow that brings back memories. I remember my first "real " computer was an IBM XT with no hard drive. Used 5 1/4 floppy drives. Microsoft had just came out with Word. Excel and Access were still years in the future. You could really get a lot done on those old machines.

Because all you could get was 512 kilobytes on a floppy developers had to be really tight with their programming. Bloat would come with the hard-drives.

We use to run our entire long distance network across Canada on QNX via a floppy Disk and it was bullet proof!

Posted Pantlessly via My Kick @ss Z30!!!

I think that this is awesome and it's prompted me to learn a lot more about QNX. I think it was a great acquisition for BlackBerry and I think that it has only just started to pay off.
Also, even if it were still called BlackBerry 10, "BBX" does kind of look cooler.

Posted via CB10

Ahhh the memories of days gone by.. floppy drives, 2400 baud rate modems, bbs', wolfenstein, : )

Q10 on T-Mobile

I actually have an even older version on 5-1/4" floppy (360k floppy no less: one for the OS and one for the C compiler).. Back when it was called Qunix and non-posix.. That was version 1.08, and then I've got a slightly newer version on 1.2M 5-1/4 with the silk screened blue QNX logo.. Really impressive, fast and robust OS even back in those days..

Posted via CB10

I am using PCs since 1988, and it happened that I had this QNX OS on a floppy disk, it was the first time that I meet the QNX and I fell in love with this platform. I was following all the time their news hoping that they gonna release an complete OS for PCs. But later last year when I saw that BB10 is based on QNX I immediately changed my phone and bought a blackberry, since then I love it. Thanks for sharing this video it revived some memories everyone should know about this wonderful QNX system.

Posted via CB10

I tried it back then, too! As soon as I saw that BB10 was based on QNX, this also became the reason to buy a BB quick :)

Back in the days I acutally also had that demo and was impressed back then already how fast and tiny this whole OS including software was. It was back in the days when people also tried BeOS and all the other Windows alternatives which all didt work out well because of the missing support.

I always think that BlackBerry 10 should change the branding to QNX. It's more easy to remember and sounds better.

 Posted via CB10 by Z30

Well the original Mac OS took up about 300k. You could launch the computer and startup Word Perfect off of a single sided version of that floppy disk.

Posted via CB10

My avatar has a classy shot of QNX 2.0.5b, from a Unisys Icon.

I used Icon systems back in high school, back in the late eighties. Pretty cool even then - they could run DOS based apps in an emulator. The use for that was to run MS Word for DOS, but I also ran "Test Drive" (racing game). :-)

When I first heard BlackBerry has acquired QNX, I pretty much did the happy dance...

Posted via CB10