Linked by Eugenia Loli on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 22:12 UTC
Original OSNews Interviews It is always an honour to interview people who have 'served' and worked on operating systems at the "golden" times of the operating systems, the '80s and pre-Win9x days. Today we interview Adam de Boor, who was the CTO at GeoWorks, developers of the GEOS, in the begining of the last decade. Adam today works for OpenWave Systems. We discuss about GeoWorks, its past, its future, where it should have been.
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by Gumby on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 16:07 UTC

anyone know were to get geos and is it open code?

Adam is great
by Ed on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 16:07 UTC

I've never met Adam, but I've worked on code he wrote. Damn he pulled off some nice stuff. Large large portions of the GEOS source tree have Adam's name on it.

Oh, and Breadbox Ensemble is 16.5megs.

.... more
by Gumby on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 16:18 UTC

good intervew do you have to run that special boot disk to run it OS today? I'd like to try it out maybe someone could point out some more info???

Memories ...
by Rob on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 16:29 UTC

Wow ... here's a name I haven't heard in ages. My first "real" computer was a KLH 286 (12Mhz) with 2 megs of RAM. I got it sometime around (I think) 1991 and it shipped with GeoWorks. At the time, I thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever. It felt a lot more cohesive than the Windows of the day (3.0, I think). I ended up moving to Windows 3.1 when it was released, though ... which was also when I stopped using DR-DOS.

Now I'm looking down at this absurdly fast laptop, with its pretty bells and whistles and getting all nostalgic. I still remember trying desperately to get all my favorite apps crammed onto that old 40MB hard drive (which eventually burst into flames -- literally -- the smell was really awful), and how happy I was when I dropped in $125 worth of extra RAM -- 2MB, moving me up to a whopping 4MB total.

I think I'll see if I can dig up some old Windows 3.1 floppies and install it under Mandrake in a virtual machine just for old time's sake.

RE: ...more Gumby
by Jim on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 16:43 UTC

You only needed the special boot disk to run GEOS on the Commodore 64/128, and maybe the Apple ][ version. The version that ran on top of MS-DOS would boot from the hard drive.

I used both the Commodore 64 version in the '80s, and the PC version in the '90s. Both were amazing pieces of programming.


Breadbox Ensemble Demo
by Ed on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 17:03 UTC

Breadbox - - has released Ensemble Lite, which is a demo version of the full Ensemble. I'm not sure how it's limited, but I think the differences are they took out some licensed code, and they made it incompatible with standard GEOS apps.

by kyle on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 17:41 UTC

Even today, you cannot get Microsoft Word to put your text in brown. But I could in GeoWrite.

What version of Word is this clown using?

Developer support is Linux' secret to success
by Xirzon on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 17:55 UTC

Thanks, great interview. I too used GEOS on the C64 (in cartridge form) and later Geoworks on a 286 PC, or rather, I used it on my father's PC to print my name with the bundled banner print application ;-). Geoworks was among the first consumer software to use decent vector fonts, and that impressed the hell out of me at the time, because you could make these banners REALLY BIG and they would still look nice. ;)

Like pretty much everyone else we eventually switched to Windows 3.*, which was extremely slow in comparison, but there was no other choice: As Adam correctly points out, you could more conveniently run the old DOS apps, and Geoworks itself had only really a handful of graphical apps, while Windows was quickly becoming the world standard. If Geoworks should teach us one lesson, it is this: If you don't support developers for your platform, your platform will die. Nevertheless, Microsoft already had those nasty OEM contracts in place which made it pretty hard for PC sellers to put anything but DOS/Windows on their machine. (In fact, they were even nastier than today, because the antitrust rulings had not taken place yet.) This is, after all, what killed BeOS years later in spite of reasonable dev support.

Today I'm using Linux and quite happy with it, in spite of its shortcomings (*cough* X11 *cough*). The number of free applications available is simply amazing, and many of them are extremely powerful as well. It's sad that Microsoft ruled supreme over the last decades (in spite of better solutions like Geoworks, OS/2, and BeOS), but I'm confident that this rule will come to an abrupt end in the near future. What I'd love to see is for a team like the Geoworks guys to come together and create a consumer Linux distro. Perhaps Xandros will be like that.

by matt on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 17:58 UTC

"working 40 hour days"

Where can I get some 40 hour days I could use some.

GeoWorks owned me
by RevAaron on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 18:46 UTC

I used to use GeoWorks on my old PC back in the day. It was so much more stable than Win 3.1, I never understood why anyone would waste their time with Win 3.1. I guess at the innocent and tender age of 12, so many irrational adult descisions can't be pushed out of the way with something like "because it's Microsoft."

I'd love to get a hold of GeoWorks to play with again, especially to play with the visual GeoBasic. If anyone has a copy to donate, I'd love to recieve it! ;)

Ensemble Lite
by RevAaron on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 18:53 UTC

Woohoo! You can download a lite version of the 'heir' to GeoWorks Ensemble!

Good ol' memories...
by Tom Rayer on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 19:43 UTC

Thanks, this was a nice interview.

I can't belive it's sixteen years now since i made holes in my floppy disks to use the backside to get double capacity... What a strange but interesting time it was.

Re: matt
by vlad on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 21:47 UTC

Where can I get some 40 hour days I could use some.

You start somewhere in Japan, get on the plane to Europe, then from Europe you get on the plane to US, and in US you get to Bahamas .
It may not be a 40 hours day exactly, but it will definitely feel like it.

What do you want from the guy - he was doing 8088 assembly, his brains are permanently damanged.

Still in Use
by R. Howells on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 22:15 UTC

I recently acquired an old 386 laptop with 4Mb ram and running Windows 3.1. That's it. Nothing Else. No Software whatsoever. Trying to get hold of Word Processor programs for it, which didn't eat up its limited memory, was pretty difficult. So I installed New Deal Release 3 Evaluation version of GEOS which includes WP, spreadsheet, and Database, plus games, and various other apps. The whole installation takes up less than 10mb, and compared to Win3.1 it's lightning fast. So now I have a dual booting 386 laptop which is just amazing. I did finally find the first 4 installation disks of Word for Win 3.1 at a car boot sale so I can even use that now. GEOS/NewDeal even lets me print to an old Panasonic laser printer too. I found the system so impressive I've now installed NewDeal Office 2000 on my main system which i can boot into and out of while still running Win98. It's a superb OS. Try it.

Don't let Ed fool you....
by Mark T on Thu 3rd Oct 2002 23:45 UTC

He's done some excellent work in GEOS. Heck, working with Lysle and Gene the three of them recently created the ISUI for Breadbox Ensemble. ISUI of course, is the Windows look & feel. Ed also spearheaded tabbed windows, ala Win9.x and Linux and a slew of other things such as a dhcp driver.


Very enjoyable story...
by Steve Vivian on Fri 4th Oct 2002 00:49 UTC

Hey, thanks for posting that story. Very cool. Like several others who visit this board, I enjoyed GEOS way back when...the early 90's. The old Ensemble really *did* fly on my puny 286 with 1 (!) meg of RAM. GeoWrite was just as good as people excellent word processor on which I wrote thousands of pages of text. I do wish GEOS could've hung in there...very sweet GUI with killer code.

But run over by MS (old story, yes?)


GEOS was a revelation to me
by mark on Fri 4th Oct 2002 02:55 UTC

Back in the day I had a Commodore 64, a friend told me about GEOS and I tried it. That was the first GUI I had ever used, having learned from the command line on UNIX systems, I was literally screaming "YES!! YES!! this is what computers should DO!"
For quite a while I was definitely a GEOS evangelist. Too bad things didn't work out. I bet I have those disks around here someplace.....

by Tony on Fri 4th Oct 2002 03:37 UTC

It was sad that Geoworks didnt get the market share it deserved, and I agree marketting was the biggest flaw. I contacted the company at the time, re developing some Geoworks addons, and found that it cost $1000 for the tools and also you had to forward a resume to be approved. We eventually gave up and adopted Windows. It would have been nice to offer our app and Geoworks bundled.

PS ... 40 hour day is where you work 40 hours straight and then sleep, however you could also have a 40 hour actual day on another planet, personally I like mars ... but the 25 hour day there would be a little short.

Sad but true
by Rob on Fri 4th Oct 2002 04:26 UTC

I used GEOS on the C64 and thought it was great, but Geoworks on the PC was something else again. I was sure it was the work of magicians! There were standard features in Geoworks ten years ago that still haven't made it into mainstream operating systems even now (and they were useful too)

GEOS costs
by DLazlo on Fri 4th Oct 2002 05:19 UTC

I donated some older systems to 'The Boystown Institute' for underpriviledged and "non-conforming" kids. I loaded the best OS I legally could on each, but if GEOS/NewDeal would have been even a little less expensive, I could have put it on all of them. I wanted to start a regular program for the kids using donated hardware, but it was just too difficult using different v. of DOS or Windows to get what you could out of stuff. Neither Boystown or I had the money up front to get it going, as it was "experimental" trying to prove you could actually use all that "old junk" to do something.

Brings back memories
by meroveus on Fri 4th Oct 2002 06:16 UTC

I used GEOS on the c64 and it was a pile of crap.
Clunky looking, and downright slow, especially when you had to insert disk 'A', then insert disk 'B', then insert disk 'A' again etc. You get the picture!
With two or more floppies plus a ram expansion unit, it was bearable, but only just.
But at the time, it was the only GUI OS for the C64.

PC-GEOS on the other hand blew me away. It was stable and fast, and looked gorgeous. Even now it looks ok.
It literally did print WYSIWYG on my dot-matrix printers.

PC-GEOS 1.0 had extremely fast screen displays, but the 2.x series was quite slow for some reason.
I think in PC-GEOS 2.x they used a lot of object-orientated code which was the culprit.

For two years, I did a monthly newsletter for my mother's nursing home, complete with scanned photos and interviews.
I also published several hundred copies of my grandmother's poems using this OS.
PC-GEOS was SO easy to use. I did everything in it except program for it.

Geoworks had a brain-dead sheme whereby you had to apply to become a developer.
WTF, you say? It's true.
If you were accepted, you were then permitted to buy the SDK for about AUS $200, and develop progs.
A proficient developer in ASM and C, I was told by the Australian distributor, I wouldn't be accepted as a developer, since I had no C++ experience!
I was currently learning it, but he said it wasn't good enough, they only wanted experienced C++ devs!
So I said FSCK YOU, and left PC-GEOS for Dr-DOS/Win 3.1

It serves the b*stards right for being so choosy.
When you are a small OS struggling for market share, you don't knock back anyone, who wants to develop apps for you.
You also need to give away the SDK for free.

kyle: Uuuuuh!
by Grossibaer on Fri 4th Oct 2002 11:27 UTC

Well, I think you can make the whole text in WordArt to print in brown. And shoot yourself into the foot. Both is equally stupid.

Nobody denied that you can do lots of things with Word. Many of them are things you didn't want to but Word made for you. Tired of writing on your diploma thesis? No problem. Every now and then Word will thrash it so you can make a fres start.
And to do more with word than jsut writing business notes (which is the #1 use for Word these days) you'll need to buy dozends of books that tell you which registry key to add so a hidden menu will appear in the tenth level of submenus that will allow you to activate (or deactivate) the option you want. - until you switch the printer driver and start all over.

p.s.: Hi Mark, Hi Ed! Nice to see you here!

Re: Matt
by Rob Campbell on Fri 4th Oct 2002 13:00 UTC

Where can I get some 40 hour days I could use some.

You start somewhere in Japan, get on the plane to Europe, then from Europe you get on the plane to US, and in US you get to Bahamas .
It may not be a 40 hours day exactly, but it will definitely feel like it.

What do you want from the guy - he was doing 8088 assembly, his brains are permanently damanged.

He made it pretty clear in the interview. A forty hour day would be a forty hour work day, i.e., forty hours non-stop. You must have been coming off some 8088 assembly programming when you read the article. It was pretty obvious.

Re: Brings back memories
by Ed on Fri 4th Oct 2002 13:55 UTC

I don't know anything about the Commadore versions, but all PC versions were heavily object oriented. That's why all the apps are so small. 2.x had a LOT more functionality (I vaguely remember hearing 4-5x). I think 2.0 was optimized for at least of 2 megs of ram, although it still did work in 640k.

I don't see why Geoworks would want C++ experience, as you can't even use C++ with GEOS. My only guess is in the 1.x days, the SDK wasn't really ready for the outside world, so they limited who they gave it to to try to cut down the support they'd have to do. I didn't get interested in programming until the 2.x days. At that point, the SDK was $100, no questions asked.

Ensemble + DrDos 6 still runs great
by XAOS on Fri 4th Oct 2002 15:22 UTC

I have one old 486/99 still running DR DOS 6 and GeoWorks Ensemble. DR Dos was and is the best DOS - fast and stable. GeoWorks Ensemble is still impressive for speed and stability. All it really needs is a spreadsheet, a decent comm program and a browser.

Re: Sad
by JBQ on Fri 4th Oct 2002 18:23 UTC

"back in the day", when I started, developing for BeOS required resume approval, and getting a devkit was $1600 for (literally) a BeBox motherboard in a roughly cut steel chassis. You had to add all the hardware in the BeBox (RAM, graphics card, HD, CD...), a monitor... and you also needed a PowerMac, with a Pro edition of CodeWarrior. Overall, counting taxes an shipping and all that, it would cost you about $5000 before you could start writing code...

I guess every framework company does the same, has limited support resources (and other limited resources, like manufacturing the actual boxes in Be's case) and tried to not waste too much time on support for too many early developers.


SDK for GEOSv1
by Chris Sallek on Wed 9th Oct 2002 03:47 UTC

As I recall, all development for version 1.x of the GEOS OS had to be done on a Sun SparcStation, which made becoming a GEOS developer even MORE daunting (and unaffordable). At least the SDK and machine requirements for v2 were a BIT more affordable... $100 for the SDK... but it then required a fairly-leading-edge machine, I believe, running WinNT (v3.x, I think... but possibly v2.x) with the Borland "C" compiler PLUS a second, thankfully lesser, machine to debug on.

I HAVE a couple of copies of the SDK somewhere... probably the required Borland C... but no NT. Oh, well.

BTW, for anyone who might remember me... I was cmsallek/ fidogeomod on aol and was the moderator of the Fidonet Geoworks echo about 8 years ago, I think. (Has it been THAT long?) I wander in and out of the Yahoo Geoworks group (geos-talk) & tried to keep up with comp.os.geos.misc. I even popped on once or twice.

I should be ordering the GreenPC version of GEOS/NewDeal Ensemble from Breadbox sometime soon, along with Breadbox Ensemble, the LATEST version of what WAS Geoworks Ensemble, sometime in the NEAR future.

I STILL love that OS/GUI and it's software... I remember downloading my FIRST GEOS app from a BBS... the download was so QUICK because of the app's small size... I figured that there had been an error... but no... there was the app and it ran just fine.

And oh, the FEATURES... open-pinnable menus, text OBJECTS,
lightning fast PREEMPTIVE multitasking, FANTASTIC output on my inexpensive dot-matrix printer... it was SO MUCH FUN on
a 286 and later a 486.

Back to those app sizes... the SDK came with example code for a small word processor... think "Wordpad" without the help (heck, help was not usually NEEDED with GEOS apps). I think the WP example code is something like 50k.

I also bought a copy of the "Overview", an introduction to the "guts" of GEOS... and remember being FLOORED by some of the things that had been put in or allowed for in the OS. BTW, from what I always understood... GEOS was basically a TRUE OS... the only reason you had to load DOS first was for the file system... unlike WINv3, etc., which was merely a GUI interface for the DOS command line (think PRETTY DosHell... err... DOSshell).

Finally, there was supposedly a handful of people who, by eliminating unneeded libraries, apps, etc., managed to squeeze a stripped-down, BOOTABLE version of Geoworks Ensemble (basic DOS, GEOS kernal and required libraries, etc.), I believe WITH GeoWrite, the GeoWorks word processor, but probably excluding the thesaurus and possibly spell-check, onto a SINGLE 1.44mB floppy. (This was a v1.x Ensemble, I believe... and probably DOSv3.2 or so.)