December 01, 2006

It was a real GEM

GEM Desktop
I'm not sure if everyone has had the same unsatisfying experience with Microsoft Windows over the years as myself. The constant patches and new versions. No sooner than I have the various Windows XP installations in my care as house broken as possible than Bill Gates threatens to force me to move everything to Vista. I don't feel good about it.

Windows had a birthday recently, reminding the old feeder of the awful pedigree Vista will carry. In the early days, shortsightedness and stupidity conspired with the grasping vision of hyper-geek Billy the Kid Gates to make MS-DOS and then Windows a demi-monopoly. There were other up and coming graphical user interfaces and operating systems, but they all wound up sucking hind tit to Microsoft. (Odd, but the Urban Dictionary has picked up the definitely non-urban idiom.)

The GEM Desktop was one of those runts that died while Gates suckled the fat PC market sow dry. Read the gory details of how Digital Research, creators of GEM, sometimes called the first windows, missed the boat here.

I recall being quite excited to have a gui besides DOS. It allowed you to drag and drop files and to create icons that would run batch files to launch fun applications like PC Paintbrush and WordStar. GEM ran on top of DOS, so it wasn't really an OS. But it made my efforts to run an office and publish a printed newsletter on a 286 PC seem possible.

GEM Desktop Publisher
It took hours to download a few soft fonts to my giant, overweight B&W laser printer, and more hours to print, collate, fold and staple the pages. Gutenberg probably worked faster once he got going. Publishing the newsletter for the Omaha chapter of the Women's Overseas Service League was an all-night production, but those ladies were so sweet and had such stories to tell...
You can still download and play with GEM. Be careful, the GEM video module (VDI) can screw up some monitors.

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