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Reprinted from Popular Computing, issue 2/85, pp. 22.

Still another entry in the complicated operating environments field has surfaced, but this time around, Digital Research may have come up with a winner. Its GEM (Graphics Environment Manager) brings a standard graphics user interface to any computer running under MS-DOS or the firm’s Concurrent DOS in DOS mode.

The GEM environment allows for overlapping windows, use of a mouse, pulldown menus, icons, and data transfer among programs. In other words, it works a lot like Apple’s Macintosh user interface. In fact, GEM Desktop, DRI’s first GEM software application, looks a lot like the screen display that the Mac made famous.

In addition, GEM supports the graphics standard recently endorsed by IBM, so it can use a variety of graphics devices that the Mac doesn’t yet support. You still have the familiar A> prompt and traditional file directories if you want, and any MS-DOS applications program can run under the GEM Desktop.

Unfortunately, however, you can’t buy GEM or GEM Desktop – the products are available only bundled with hardware or with other software products. Digital Research will bundle both GEM and the Desktop with three presentation graphics programs scheduled for release in early 1985 – GEM Draw, GEM Wordchart, and GEM Graph. And naturally, the firm hopes other software vendors will bundle GEM with their software. DRI is offering an inexpensive toolkit for developing such programs.

GEM will compete with IBM’s Topview and Microsoft Windows. Topview will be a multitasking environment running only on IBM PCs with large amounts of memory. GEM, which runs only one application at a time, can work on smaller computers, including the PCjr.

In the meantime, Microsoft has rescheduled its Windows environment again, now saying it hopes to release the product in June. Microsoft said it delayed the already-late product to make it work faster and run on a machine with 256K bytes of memory. In the long run, the success of Windows, Topview, and GEM will depend upon the support they gather from independent software vendors.

Michael J. Miller

Page added on 11th June 2006.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.