A few words about Digital Research's GEM

This document copyright Herbert R. Johnson 2012. Updated Mar 05 2012.
Contact, prices and other information can be found in this notice.

Follow this link back to my Web page about later OS products of Digital Research Inc.

My thanks to Christian Liendo, who discussed GEM with me in September 2008. This Web page is by no means comprehensive and may have errors or miss major Web links. Please advise me accordingly of errors and omissions. - Herb Johnson

GEM (Graphical Environment Manager) was DRI's GUI-based operating system and graphical environment. It was derived from the GSX graphical extension tools of their CP/M product. A designer of the product did prior work at Xerox PARC, a research center which developed an early graphic environment for computing. GEM version 1 was shown as early as 1983, but first released in 1985, according to various sources. DRI supported a few computers with GE. ONe was for IBM-PC's and other 8086-based machines (notibly the Amstrad). Another was for the Atari ST, a 68000 system, and under the Atari "TOS". A DRI product, ViewMAX, was a graphical shell for a version of DR-DOS. Other companies of the late 1980's licensed GEM, to use as a graphics front-end for their MS-DOS products, in the days before Windows 3.1.

Apple sued DRI in 1985 over the first version of GEM, as it too closely resembled the desktop on the Mac 128K, sold in 1984. DRI then released GEM/2 which removed some of those similar features. GEM version 3 or GEM/3 was released as "open source" by Caldera when they owned rights to DRI products. Here's a link to one version tree and history for GEM.

DRI also provided a "GEM Programmers Workbench", a product developed by Dylan Harris for Software Experts Ltd and provided to DRI as a user's contribution. Harris subsequently has his own Web site and offers GEM Programmers Workbench under an open-source license.Here's a brief statement from Lineo/DRDOS.COM about recent GEM ownership and rights.

The "unofficial CP/M Web site" included a GEM archive, but that archive was removed at some point. A surviving copy of the site at that time, at retroarchive.org, has those files as of 2008.

There's been various projects which are derived from GEM code. Deltasoft sponsors sites for FreeGEM and OpenGEM, primarily for IBM-PC-like environments. They also have links for a GEM mail list, which as of 2008 is a members-only Yahoo! Group.

There seems to be some relationship with OpenDOS among the GEM Web sites.

That Web site has interviews by an original DR GEM developer and recent OpenGEM developers.

John Elliot, an archivist of CP/M and Z80 and other software, also has a GEM archive. Elliot's GEM archive has good background information bout and files from DRI's early GEM products. Also see this Mar 2012 post by Elliot on his recent work.

A brief history of GEM is a 2002 story on this web site about OS news. I also suggest a search of The New York Times online article archives at query.nytimes.com.

Contact information:

Herb Johnson
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Copyright © 2012 Herb Johnson