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Beagle Bros was a software company that specialized in creating personal computing products that were both useful and whimsical. Their primary focus was on the Apple II family of computers.

History

Beagle Bros (the lack of a period at the end is intentional; according to the company, "there wasn't room") was founded in 1980 by Bert Kersey and expanded over the years to include a wide variety of staff members, programmers, and designers. Whereas most software companies focused on professional users and business systems, Kersey founded the company with the intention of supporting the "hobbyist" users who had sprung up when affordable personal computers were made available to the general public.

As a result, much of the Beagle Bros product line consists of software that put the creative power in the hands of the user or expanded popular products of other companies. Apple Mechanic allowed users to create their own shape tables (an early form of sprites) to create their own games, DOS Boss let users patch the disk operating system, and Beagle Bag had a number of simple but fun games written in BASIC that budding programmers could also list out and learn from. In the early days, every Beagle Bros order also included a "Peeks, Pokes, & Pointers" chart, a wall poster that budding Apple hackers could use as a reference for the memory locations that did useful things on the Apple II. The company also later released a Big Tip Book containing many programming tips for Apple hobbyists and also published a Tip Disk. The company took great pride in not copy-protecting their software.

When the Apple IIgs was released, Beagle Bros was among the first companies to release high-quality packages that took full advantage of that computer's capabilities. Both Platinum Paint and BeagleWrite GS (acquired and repackaged) are still regarded as being among the high points of commercial IIgs software.

Beagle Bros reached a new audience when they began producing add-ons for the AppleWorks integrated package. Their first AppleWorks add-on, released in 1986, was the MacroWorks keyboard shortcut utility by Randy Brandt. Beagle Bros programmer Alan Bird later devised an API for creating AppleWorks add-ons, which they dubbed TimeOut. The company produced an extensive and ever-expanding line of TimeOut products. TimeOut programmers Alan Bird, Randy Brandt and Rob Renstrom were tapped by Claris to develop AppleWorks 3.0, and the TimeOut API itself became a part of AppleWorks with version 4.0 (created by Randy Brandt and Dan Verkade; released by Quality Computers). Eventually the TimeOut API was made public and a number of non-Beagle TimeOut applications were released.

The end of an age came in 1991 when then-owner Mark Simonsen licensed the Beagle Bros Apple II line to Quality Computers. Quality Computers subsequently went through several acquisitions and no longer exists. However, many Beagle Bros "classics" were released as freeware[1] in the mid-1990s, including most of the company's early utilities and games. Today, their programs are available[2] on the Internet.

BeagleWorks, the company's main Macintosh product, was licensed to WordPerfect Corporation in 1992, where it became WordPerfect Works. This product was later discontinued after WordPerfect was acquired by Novell. The company also produced a few small Macintosh and PC utilities.

Many former "Beaglers" have continued to be involved in the software industry; for example, Joe Holt is one of the authors of iMovie, and Alan Bird has worked on Eudora and was the author of the OneClick shortcut utility for Macintosh. Randy Brandt created Online Army Knife, an award-winning Macintosh spell checker, and continued publishing AppleWorks products through his JEM Software spin-off. Mark Munz created Deja ][, which allows AppleWorks to run under Mac OS X. The company's founder, Bert Kersey, started a model train company after selling Beagle Bros, featuring much of the same humor, but is now retired and living in Fallbrook, California with his wife Sharon and a backyard full of barn owls.


Style

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Beagle Bros was their use of vintage woodcut art in their print material. While many computer and software companies in the 1980s aimed for flashy, high-tech logos and advertising, Beagle Bros cultivated a nostalgic, down-home feel in keeping with their intended mission of creating software that was welcoming to inexperienced computer owners.

Humor permeated Beagle Bros products, even extending to the warning label printed on their 5.25" disk jackets. Unlike most disk care labels, which warned that magnets, water, and high temperatures could damage disks, Beagle Bros' warning icons admonished users not to use their disks as kites, fold them into paper planes, set fire to them, or feed them to alligators.

Another delight was the "two-liner" computer programs that peppered Beagle Bros advertising and mailers. Each new Beagle Bros communication contained one or more Applesoft BASIC programs tucked away in speech balloons or whitespace. The two-liners were always nigh-impenetrable, yet extremely clever, little programs that showcased unusual tricks or capabilities of the Apple II. At first these were written by Kersey himself; later, users began submitting their own. Eventually, almost every Beagle Bros release came with a selection of these "miniprograms" either on disk or in the box inserts.