Linked by Kroc on Thu 24th Aug 2006 20:26 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes GEOS managed to offer nearly all the functionality of the original Mac in a 1 MHz computer with 64 Kilobytes of RAM. It wasn't an OS written to run on a generic x86 chip on a moving hardware platform. It was written using immense knowledge of the hardware and the tricks one could use to maximise speed. Note: After a small break, here is another one of the articles for the Alternative OS contest.
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by helf on Thu 24th Aug 2006 20:35 UTC
helf
Member since:
2005-07-06

Haven't read the article yet, but GEOS was pretty amazing. If you had a ramlink and a hdd, it flew on a c64. There are people out there that still use other OSes for the c64 like WiNGS and Wheels on a daily basis. The c64 has a lot of life left in it ;)

Reply Score: 2

Bravo...
by jchildrose on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:01 UTC
jchildrose
Member since:
2005-07-06

...Excellent article!

I was a huge fan of GEOS back in the day, and ran it on my Commodore 128, and I later ran Geoworks Ensemble on my PC. GEOS in all it's incarnations was truly an amazing OS, and way ahead of it's time in many repsects. It truly is a shame that it's achievements have been overlooked and left behind in the past.

Reply Score: 2

excellent...
by l3v1 on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:05 UTC
l3v1
Member since:
2005-07-06

...but, I wouldn't label GEOS as "Alternative OS", it was pretty widespread back in the days...

Reply Score: 3

RE: excellent...
by Anonymous Coward on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:07 UTC in reply to "excellent..."
Anonymous Coward Member since:
2005-07-06

How right you are. AOL for DOS 1.0 - 1.5 used GEOS as it's interface.

Reply Score: 4

RE: excellent...
by Kroc on Fri 25th Aug 2006 07:18 UTC in reply to "excellent..."
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

So were BeOS and OS/2, but they're pretty alternative now. I think it's slightly narrow minded to point at an OS and say, I don't think you're alternative enough. I think that's up to the users of the OS to decide.

Heck, to run GEOS natively, you have to use a Commodore 64 from the eighties, or a 286/386 PC.

Edited 2006-08-25 07:24

Reply Score: 2

Mmm... I like GEOS
by Anonymous Coward on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:06 UTC
Anonymous Coward
Member since:
2005-07-06

I still have GEOS sitting here in my cabinet in the original box, with the original manual and all of the paperwork (including the reg card).

In the basement, carefully packed away, in it's original box, I have a Commodore 64, two floppy drives, tape drive, mouse, game controllers, okidata printer, some enhancement cards, and a collection of 5.25 floppies.

I miss the days of simplicity.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Mmm... I like GEOS
by kadymae on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:46 UTC in reply to "Mmm... I like GEOS"
kadymae Member since:
2005-08-02

In the basement, carefully packed away, in it's original box, I have a Commodore 64, two floppy drives, tape drive, mouse, game controllers, okidata printer, some enhancement cards, and a collection of 5.25 floppies.

~snif~ You have my childhood packed in your basement.

(All of that stuff went bye-bye when a friend [borrowing it -- it was now the spare computer] totaled his truck in an accident and it somehow disappeared in between the scene of the accident and the tow-yard the next day.)

Reply Score: 3

Good Article
by hornett on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:27 UTC
hornett
Member since:
2005-09-19

What an enjoyable read. Amazing what they managed to squeeze out of that hardware!

Interesting seeing it on real h/w as well ;)

Reply Score: 2

Thanks
by alcibiades on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:27 UTC
alcibiades
Member since:
2005-10-12

Thanks. Very nice informative thorough article. Really enjoyed it.

Reply Score: 1

Printing
by gbryal on Thu 24th Aug 2006 21:58 UTC
gbryal
Member since:
2005-07-05

Great article. I remember running Geoworks Ensemble which came packaged with my Laser 286 computer; it was excellent; I took it to college with me and used the word processor a lot.

The great thing about Geoworks was it had some great print technology, such that my Radio Shack dmp-105 could do very nice wysiwyg with it. It did this by making several passes over the page. It took forever, but looked great. No small feat for the dmp-105, which was a _7_ pin dot matrix printer.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Printing
by diskinetic on Thu 24th Aug 2006 22:33 UTC in reply to "Printing"
diskinetic Member since:
2005-12-09

Back in the late 80s I was in college, and when my Okidata printer would turned great wysiwyg text, one professor asked me how I was managing to get so much quality into my papers. GEOS was my silver bullet. I also remember clacking away at monochrome DOS in the basic comp-sci. class I was taking and laughing all the way back to my dorm to my full-color stereo graphic OS C-64. I knew that I was being taught the past, and getting to play with the future.

Reply Score: 3

Great
by Tymon on Thu 24th Aug 2006 23:26 UTC
Tymon
Member since:
2006-05-23

Great article! The early GEOS era was just before my time so it was very informative and fun to read.

Reply Score: 1

Memories
by anevilyak on Thu 24th Aug 2006 23:40 UTC
anevilyak
Member since:
2005-09-14

This article almost brought a tear to my eye...my first computer was in fact a C-128D, and this brought back many old memories of tinkering with it as a child. Ahh the days of typing in pages upon pages of binary generators from RUN magazine.

Excellent article, Kroc ;)

Browser: Mozilla/5.0 (Danger hiptop 2.0; U; AvantGo 3.2)

Reply Score: 3

RE: Memories
by rx182 on Thu 24th Aug 2006 23:50 UTC in reply to "Memories"
rx182 Member since:
2005-07-08

Using a computer was so cool back then :

Reply Score: 5

Good stuff
by Sphinx on Fri 25th Aug 2006 00:22 UTC
Sphinx
Member since:
2005-07-09

I recall thinking, must have been a lifetime ago how geos should put windows 3.0 in an early grave or would have had the two been competing strictly on their merits.

Reply Score: 2

Yeah, well...
by Sophotect on Fri 25th Aug 2006 00:25 UTC
Sophotect
Member since:
2006-04-26

...another one bites the dust. Makes me sort of sad to be remembered of this. Though i never owned a "Commie", i used Geoworks Ensemble on top of PTS/DOS, some russian thing also mostly, or wholly coded in ASM. Well, what can i say? It blasted me away speedwise, but was sort of
useless without the applications i had under other OSSes then. Makes me think of what could have been if TRON http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRON_Project , http://tronweb.super-nova.co.jp ,or something like General Magic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Magic had made it. When one thinks further about it, which i advise against, because it tends to make aggressive, one could come to the conclusion we are all running around in ball&chain.

Reply Score: 4

Thanks!
by Deathspawner on Fri 25th Aug 2006 03:44 UTC
Deathspawner
Member since:
2006-08-11

This was a refreshing look at such a classic OS. I used this when I was little (I mean I was three when this came out), but don't remember it at all. It's impressive how much power it offered the user... for the time.

Reply Score: 1

JonathanBThompson
Member since:
2006-05-26

The Macintosh mutations that used the Motorola 68000 were not truly 32 bit processors: they had a 24 bit address bus, a 16 bit data bus, and also did have some instructions that would work on 32 bit data, but... they were not truly 32 bit processors. Were they better than the 8088/8086 available then? Most certainly! For a given clock speed (and the Macintosh started at about 8 Mhz) it was more efficient per clock cycle, and it also had more registers, but it still wasn't a true 32 bit chip.

Other than that, it was a great article.

Reply Score: 1

evilrich Member since:
2006-07-06

If you are going to nit-pick, please nit-pick with more accuracy. ;-)

> also did have some instructions that would work on
> 32 bit data

The 68000 was fully 32-bit internally. So, it wasn't just 'some instructions' that operated on 32-bit data, but most instructions since its general-purpose registers were all 32-bit.

Yes. It did have a 16-bit data bus and a 24-bit address range (the address bus was actually 23 bits wide - it took some extra magic to access odd addresses). Thus it was usually billed as a 16/32-bit CPU.

Reply Score: 1

evilrich Member since:
2006-07-06

> The 68000 was fully 32-bit internally.

To nit-pick myself, that's not quite true, either. ;-)

The ISA was 32-bit, but the 68000 was mostly 16-bit internally.

Reply Score: 1

The 68000...
by Kochise on Fri 25th Aug 2006 07:32 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Slight nit-pick for technical accuracy..."
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

The 68000 have 8 *TRUE* 32 bits data registers, not extended registers like on x86. I'm an assembler coder for various CPU, and the 68000 is really a good piece of hardware !

The 68000 have a 24 bits address bus which allows addressing 16 MB flat memory (where x86 could only access 640 KB, or 1 MB if A20 used). The data bus is 16 bits, thus reading/writing a 32 bits data needs two access.

With the 68020 (the *FIRST* full 32 bits CPU ever), the address bus *AND* the data bus are spread to full 32 bits, both internaly AND externaly...

ONLY after that Intel followed with the 386 that was 32 bits as well...

Kochise

Reply Score: 1

RE: The 68000...
by Sophotect on Fri 25th Aug 2006 14:38 UTC in reply to "The 68000..."
Sophotect Member since:
2006-04-26

The ST in Atari ST stood for Sixteen/Thirtytwo.
The later and last ones with 68030 in them where called TT. Reminds me of the 386SX somehow, but that came much later, didn't it?

Reply Score: 1

viton Member since:
2005-08-09

> Motorola 68000 were not truly 32 bit processors:
Truly? There is no such things as truly or not truly cpu ^_^
68000 has full 32bit ISA (7 years ahead of intel), who cares what was under the hood? !!!
Do you need 32bit address bus for a couple of megabytes of RAM? NO!!! It would be just a waste of transistors.
32bit ALU did not fit in their transistor budget, so 32bit data was processed in 2 chunks in 16bit alu.

Pentium4 also has 16 bit ALU, so why you didn't call it 16 bit cpu????

Reply Score: 1

fantastic article
by nivenh on Fri 25th Aug 2006 04:59 UTC
nivenh
Member since:
2005-07-06

one of my favorite things about this article is that the presentation comes across as being completely informative and factual in nature. A+++.

I didn't have to suffer through countless jabs at other OS's, or hear about how this one was the best OS ever built.

very nice indeed.

Reply Score: 5

GEOS
by Andre4s on Fri 25th Aug 2006 06:45 UTC
Andre4s
Member since:
2006-02-10

Nice to pick GEOS to write about. The author really seem to know a lot about it. The article is a bit to long to keep me intrested all the way. I think the author should try to write more efficent next time. But over all a very nice article.

Reply Score: 1

Display system
by bogomipz on Fri 25th Aug 2006 07:27 UTC
bogomipz
Member since:
2005-07-11

It had a postscript-like imaging model, complete with outline font technology and separate rotation, translation & scaling matrices for both the application and the UI. (a leaf from Mac OS X's book; 10 years before)

Here it sounds like GEOS did this 10 years before anybody else, which is a bit far fetched. Mac OSX is really NeXTstep version 5. NeXTstep had real display postscript right from the start, and had its first release in 1988. I think this makes for a closer race than the article indicates.

I don't know the history of GEOS, but I gather that it was originally released in 1986. Did it incorporate the "postscript-like imaging model" at this point? Did it even have it before NeXT? (And postscript-like doesn't mean actual Postscript(tm), right?)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Display system
by Kroc on Fri 25th Aug 2006 07:55 UTC in reply to "Display system"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

I can't say I know a lot about NeXT systems, so indeed, you may be true. There are two main strains of GEOS, the 6502 version, and the x86 version. Both are entirely different operating systems. PC/GEOS which included the object orientated UI model, was started around 1989.

PC/GEOS's UI model had a few extra tricks up its sleeve though. PC/GEOS's UI was entirely object orientated. When Brian describes being able to change one thing into another, he isn't talking about fancy skins. The UI elements in an app were described in data, and the UI would represent that data according to the UI being used.

For example, a menu in a program could be realised as a menu, or a bullet list, or a folding tree structure, or, anything you could imagine with that dataset. This goes far beyond simple skinning in KDE, or even Cocca on OS X.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Display system
by bogomipz on Fri 25th Aug 2006 11:19 UTC in reply to "RE: Display system"
bogomipz Member since:
2005-07-11

Thanks for elaborating, this sounds really interesting. The UI is data in Cocoa as well though. It sounds like GEOS and NeXT has alot in common here.

My comment on the "10 years before" business is strengthened by your reply. Mac OS X is a direct descendent of a system which had display postscript before GEOS picked up a similar idea. Apple reimplemented it as display PDF, but that was only done because the license fees involved with Postscript made the system too expensive for the home user market.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Display system
by edwdig on Fri 25th Aug 2006 11:22 UTC in reply to "RE: Display system"
edwdig Member since:
2005-08-22

To continue on with the UI concepts. The UI had about a dozen basic classes you could pick from. You would create the object you wanted, and specify hints that told the OS what the object was for. The OS would figure out how to visually represent the object.

It really made UI programming so much simpiler than in other GUIs, where you have a seperate class with a different API for each variation of widget.

Also, by default, the UI of a GEOS app ran on a seperate thread from the processing. That made sure the UI always ran smoothly.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Display system
by edwdig on Fri 25th Aug 2006 11:17 UTC in reply to "Display system"
edwdig Member since:
2005-08-22

I know nothing about the Commadore version, but PC/GEOS was started in 1988, with the first release in 1990. The imaging model was definitely in there from the start.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Display system
by bogomipz on Fri 25th Aug 2006 11:31 UTC in reply to "RE: Display system"
bogomipz Member since:
2005-07-11

Right. NeXTstep was started in 86 and released in 88. I think we can conclude that the article's claim about the 10 years was a result of Kroc not knowing the roots of OS X.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Display system
by Sophotect on Fri 25th Aug 2006 14:32 UTC in reply to "Display system"
Sophotect Member since:
2006-04-26

Not to forget SUNs NeWS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeWS

Reply Score: 1

Hard to develop -> lack of apps
by kikan on Fri 25th Aug 2006 07:58 UTC
kikan
Member since:
2006-08-25

Great OS, I remember installing a copy everywhere I could, just to show what could be done with small hardware. I used it as my Primary OS for years, as I was comming from Atari ST and feeling disapointed by the PC.

In 1991 ou 1992, I bought the developer guide (only) for Geoworks Ensemble (which cost about 150 €). About 4 kilograms of very interesting reading, nice APIs, all object and C.
But, to make a "Hello, world !", you needed 2 PCs, one with Windows, and one with Geoworks, and a laplink cable linking them. I didn't have to many computers at this time.

I think that's a reason why there where so few apps : too difficult to develop, even if you could find some help on newsgroups (Internet was slowly appearing in France). And I was not skilled enough.

I still own a little compaq notebook, simply installed with a DOS 5 and Geoworks. Sometimes I boot it, just to remember how nice it was.

Edited 2006-08-25 08:10

Reply Score: 2

RE: Hard to develop -> lack of apps
by edwdig on Fri 25th Aug 2006 11:32 UTC in reply to "Hard to develop -> lack of apps"
edwdig Member since:
2005-08-22

You needed 2 PCs and a standard $10 null modem. You didn't need Windows, although most people used it on the coding PC.

The need for two PCs was because of the debugging. Any time you hit a breakpoint in the debugger, it would stop the entire OS. Doing this made debugging multithreaded code MUCH easier. Also, putting the debugger on a seperate machine meant your code wasn't trashing the debugger as it ran. It was an expense, but, you didn't need anything fast for the 2nd machine. I just used my old 286 as the debugging machine.

GEOS wasn't hard to develop for at all. The APIs were VERY nice actually. The UI in particular was so much easier to develop for than any other UI toolkit. The myth of GEOS being hard to develop for was created by people who spent a lot of time learning MFC and didn't want to admit that it wasn't very good.

As for my basis of comparison there, I spent a summer trying to learn Windows coding with Visual C++ 1.0, not really making any progress. I then got the GEOS SDK, and within a few weeks impressed Geoworks enough to get an offer for an internship the following summer.

I'm still so spoiled by the ease of the GEOS APIs that I won't go near Win32/MFC.

Reply Score: 2

Lightning fast
by Arawn on Fri 25th Aug 2006 09:21 UTC
Arawn
Member since:
2005-07-13

I got to use GeoWorks Ensemble 1.2 (I think) in the early '90s, running on a 8MHz 286 PC on full multi-task mode, and it completely blew the crap out of MS Windows 3.1 runing on a 386 16MHz!! People just stared jaw opened at the sheer speed of the GUI, and the running programs.

It printed beautifully on 9 and 24 pin printers, something MS Windows couldn't do at all then!

Pity it didn't pick up.

Reply Score: 1

Great article!
by DeadFishMan on Fri 25th Aug 2006 14:48 UTC
DeadFishMan
Member since:
2006-01-09

This is one of the more in-depth article that I have ever read on this website and the author managed to get me interested through the whole thing. I felt as much pleasure reading this as I did on the article about MorphOS.

Iīm so glad that he didnīt spend more than one or two paragraphs describing the installation compared to other "reviews" that we see out there. This must be one of the supidest thing to do when reviewing an OS since you (ideally) only do it once!

I was old enough to use computers back then but I only got the chance to play with the MSX besides the IBM PC.

Kudos, Kroc. Thank you for a very good read.

Reply Score: 2

Fantastic.
by Quag7 on Fri 25th Aug 2006 15:15 UTC
Quag7
Member since:
2005-07-28

Fantastic article - amazing how in-depth this article was for an OS that is such a relic today. I first tried GEOS just as it came out because the Commodore press was really excited about it. I remember the excitement of WYSIWYG word processing and using multiple fonts. Unfortunately my system was tied up hosting a BBS most of the time so I didn't get much of a chance to do much of anything else ;) I stupidly sold off of my C=64 in college but I have a few relics from GeoWrite lying around, including some old printouts of BBS adverts for my system using the super-retro-l33t computery Cory font (which I see you include in one of the screenshots in the article).

I used Fleet System 2 to write papers for school. I can't remember why I forego GeoWrite's WYSIWYG-ness for it (FS2 was pretty fully featured - maybe the most fully featured of all Commodore word processors, but it didn't look cool, and wasn't WYSIWYG). I was actually somewhat resistant to that whole graphical environment for reasons I cannot recall, using IBM DOS WordPerfect over the Mac offerings in college.

Looking back now on some of the data you provided, it seems even more amazing now, given my memories of what was available for the 8 bit "bittyboxes" at the time.

Anyway, fantastic article - this is what I come to osnews.com for. Thanks for taking the time to write up something in such detail about a piece of software that has sunk into obscurity over time. Top shelf.

Reply Score: 2

Ahhh good memories.
by Sabon on Fri 25th Aug 2006 16:43 UTC
Sabon
Member since:
2005-07-06

Unfortunately my parents bought me an Atari 99/4a computer and not an Apple II or C64. It wasn't until a few years later when I bought a pc that I bought GEOS and got to experience it.

One of the selling points on the PC/PC laptop side was that it looked as exactly the same as it could (Windows didn't look the same on desktops and laptops at the time).

The only downside was that Windows looked prettier when it did come out. And sorry to say too many people chose pretty over great functionality. The same was true between OS/2 and Windows 3.1 and Windows '95.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane even if it was on a C64 which I wasn't lucky to have back then.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Ahhh good memories.
by Sophotect on Fri 25th Aug 2006 17:14 UTC in reply to "Ahhh good memories."
Sophotect Member since:
2006-04-26

Errm, you mean Teaxas Instruments 99/4A? Like here?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TI_99/4A

Reply Score: 1

What a good article!
by rcsteiner on Fri 25th Aug 2006 17:02 UTC
rcsteiner
Member since:
2005-07-12

I was a PC/GEOS user since the first release of GWE 1.0, and I was fairly active in the GeoWorks forums on AOL for a time. What memories. :-) I loved this environment, and I still use GeoDraw from time to time.

Kudos to the author for a VERY well-constructive and informative article!

Reply Score: 1

GEOS and such
by petedude on Fri 25th Aug 2006 17:42 UTC
petedude
Member since:
2006-03-14

It's sad that so many people didn't know about GEOS running on Apple IIs, or that GEOS continued on into the PC era (obviously, many early AOL users probably STILL don't realize they were using GEOS).

It was a great desktop environment, and would have probably hit even loftier heights had it gained continued momentum. I remember NewDeal talking up a good talk about entering the market and taking MS on; apparently that went nowhere.

I sure wouldn't mind seeing the platform revived and continued, but the world seems to have moved on somewhat. If someone could open-source this thing, who knows what you could end up with. . .

Reply Score: 1

"Small" OS contest
by Bobthearch on Fri 25th Aug 2006 19:14 UTC
Bobthearch
Member since:
2006-01-27

I suppose GEOS is considered a small OS, by those still using it today. However I'd consider it a "Failed", "Struggling", or "Abandoned" Commercial OS. I propose that TriangleOS, StormOS, ZotOS, Unununium, UnOS, etc. meet the definition for really small OSes.

Still, I like GEOS as a functional and interesting OS that can run on equipment otherwise only suitable for DOS/Windows 3. I actually have a vintage IBM computer that boots DOS (286? 386?), but don't think I have the Commodore version for my 128D.

-Bob

Reply Score: 1

Perhaps the best article ever on OSNews!
by EmmEff on Fri 25th Aug 2006 20:07 UTC
EmmEff
Member since:
2005-09-16

Boy did this article bring back memories!

I very clearly remember GEOS but I do not remember actually having ever used it. I do remember it as being revolutionary (in my mind), especially in a time where the mouse was being introduced to the public and most people didn't know what to use it for.

I started on a VIC 20 and later the C64. If it wasn't for my desire to write video games instead of waste time being beat by them, I never would have become the professional software developer I've been for the better part of the past 15 years.

OSNews needs more nostalgia like this.

Reply Score: 1

oops...
by Bobthearch on Fri 25th Aug 2006 21:54 UTC
Bobthearch
Member since:
2006-01-27

"I actually have a vintage IBM computer that boots DOS (286? 386?),..."

Can't edit my previous post, but it should read "Vintage IBM computer that boot GEOS..."

Reply Score: 1

2600/Intellivision Correction
by martyg on Mon 28th Aug 2006 19:52 UTC
martyg
Member since:
2006-08-28

"GEOS was coded by Dougherty's elite team of programmers, who had cut their teeth on the very restricted Atari 2600 and Intellivision games consoles of the time (usually 4 KB RAM). "

Actually this is incorrect. It wasn't anywhere near "usually 4kb" RAM, and the author might be confused by the ROM address space for cartridges (which was 4kb and up with bankswitching).

The 2600 had 128 bytes of RAM (yes, that's bytes not kb). Later in its life, some companies added their own ram in to their carts effectively doing calculations and such on board before sending it for display on the 2600.


The Intellivision had about 2kb of RAM *if* you add up the regular ram plus graphics and scratchpad ram. Otherwise the main ram was 704 bytes.

Reply Score: 1