Thinking From the Box

GEM, a Mac-like GUI and OS for Low-end PCs

Roger M - 2002.05.30

GEM 1.2I used to wonder why no one came out with a Mac-like GUI/OS for the PC long before Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. It turns out someone did. Unknown to most people, Windows wasn't the first GUI for PCs - GEM was.

What is GEM? GEM (Graphical Environment Manager) was the first graphical user interface for the PC. It was developed by Digital Research and first shown in 1983.

The first version of GEM has been described as "the Mac OS running on a PC." In fact, one person told me when they saw GEM on a PC, they thought the fledgling Windows would be replaced by GEM. GEM was a lot like the Mac or Windows 95 - way back in the mid-1980s.

GEM 3.11Later versions of GEM were altered a bit, as Apple Computer thought GEM looked too much like the Mac GUI and took Digital Research to court. The Trash icon was removed, and a few other things were changed in later versions. Still, GEM continued to be developed for the PC, and various GEM applications, such as word processors and publishing software, were created for it.

GEM was designed to run on early and mid-1980s PCs. As such, GEM is a good option for running on low-end PCs. Original GEM files and applications, now abandonware, can be downloaded from this page. [GEM was also ported to the Atari ST, a 68000-based competitor to the Mac. ed]

That is not all. GEM is not dead. GEM continues to be developed and updated as FreeGEM. LEPC

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