3.1 What Role Does GEOS Serve?
GEOS is a classic Mac OS like operating system, providing a GUI for performing disk functions and running productivity software. It was targeted at the business user for in-office word processing, as well as the home user for tasks like desktop publishing and keeping records.
The original GEOS is no longer used, having died out in the early 90s due to strong competition from IBM, Microsoft, Apple and new trends in computer hardware. The history of what happened to GEOS and Berkeley Softworks will be covered at the end of this article.
3.2 Why Review GEOS?
To give balance and perspective. GEOS managed to offer nearly all the functionality of the original Mac in a 1 MHz computer with 64 Kilobytes of RAM. It also wasn't an OS written to run on a generic x86 chip on a moving hardware platform. It was written using absolute immense knowledge of the hardware and the tricks one could use to maximise speed. The closest thing to GEOS in this modern era is MenuetOS, written entirely in x86 assembly code.
GEOS came at a time before the world wide web, before home computers were PCs, before mass storage that you could afford, and long before Bill Gates and Windows were No.1.
GEOS did not pioneer the GUI; most of its features were already present in the larger OSes of the day, like the classic Mac (albeit, not Windows). What GEOS did show is that cheap, low-power, commodity hardware and simple office productivity software worked. You did not need a $2000 machine to type a simple letter and print it. This gave some sense of perspective in the heady 'Golden Age of Computing' of the 80s and even now, as some alternative OSes struggle to port bloated software from other platforms.
Many OSes can claim all sorts of things, and in-fight over who invented what- first. GEOS helped drive the proliferation of the newfangled GUI concept to regular users without the need for the famous Apple Hype Machine (likely one reason why GEOS is now all but forgotten).
GEOS was able to introduce home users to Point & Click, Cut / Copy / Paste, WYSIWYG Word Processing and what you expect from a GUI without having to afford an expensive Mac or PC with Windows. Before GEOS, the home user had to go to work to even see a GUI.
Then there was GEOS on the PC (more about this at the end of the article), which had the Start Menu concept two and a half years before Windows, and a PDF-like UI model 10 years before Mac OS X ;)