How PC/GEOS found a 5th life as an open source DOS shell


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The high-performance DOS shell and erstwhile Home windows competitor is now open supply, with plans underway to create a contemporary SDK for Home windows and Linux.

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GEOS is getting a fifth shot at life, because the 1990s DOS shell—regardless of the identify, it isn’t an OS, within the strictest sense of the time period—has been launched as an open supply mission beneath the Apache license by new proprietor blueway.Softworks. Previous merchandise seeing an open supply revival is hardly new—Microsoft has accomplished this with the primary model of MS-DOS, the Home windows three.1 File Supervisor, and Calculator—although the trail GEOS took to obtain this new lease on life is extra complicated.

A short journey down prolonged reminiscence lane

For individuals who minimize their tooth on computer systems just like the Apple II and Commodore 64, GEOS introduced a Mac-like GUI to comparatively lower-powered, Eight-bit house computer systems. The workforce behind GEOS developed GeoWorks for PC in 1990. GeoWorks was additionally the premise of America On-line for DOS. Substantial quantities of GeoWorks had been written in fine-tuned x86 Meeting, making it decently extra performant on Intel 386-based computer systems than Home windows, which was launched the identical yr. This excessive efficiency in constrained environments gave GeoWorks a protracted lifespan.

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On PCs, GeoWorks had different incarnations, together with “NewDeal Workplace” from 1996-2000, and Breadbox Ensemble from 2001-2009, each of which geared toward low-end computing and schooling markets. PEN/GEOS was a fork for Zoomer PDAs, such because the Tandy Z-PDA and Casio XL-7000, in addition to the HP OmniGo, and the Brother Geobook, a netbook/phrase processor hybrid.

GeoWorks did not fairly obtain widespread success, regardless of the standard of the product. Brian Dougherty, the previous CEO of GeoWorks, stated “what killed us was that Microsoft realized what we had earlier than the remainder of the trade, they went to all of their OEMs and signed them to 2 yr unique offers to place Home windows on each machine,” in a 2010 posting at The Economist, “Bundling with new is the way in which you identify a brand new platform within the PC world and so they merely froze us out of the market.”

Moreover, a retrospective of GeoWorks lamented the shortage of third-party builders, noting that “early on, you wanted a Solar workstation to develop software program for the platform, a deeply ironic requirement—basically, you wanted a $7,000 pc to develop software program for low-end PCs.”

One other shot at retrocomputing glory

Releasing PC/GEOS as open supply got here with important hurdles, contemplating how typically the platform modified fingers. “After Frank S. Fischer, the previous proprietor and very long time GEOS fanatic handed away, I labored with Breadbox’s former CTO John Howard and Frank’s spouse, as the brand new proprietor, to amass the rights to provide PC/GEOS a future and a brand new house,” Falk Rehwagen, former Breadbox worker and proprietor of recent rights holder blueway.Softworks, advised TechRepublic. “There all the time was the imaginative and prescient to make the know-how obtainable to the neighborhood to allow additional developments, make it a dwelling and developable system.”

You may obtain PC/GEOS sources from GitHub, although the method of fully releasing it from its industrial previous remains to be ongoing.

“As a result of Breadbox Ensemble makes use of licensed non-free components, we determined to make it obtainable for registered customers solely alongside the license settlement, to maintain the system obtainable to the world. On the similar time we’re separating the non-free components and making PC/GEOS core obtainable as open-source, forming #FreeGEOS,” Rehwagen stated. “Following our imaginative and prescient, along with making the supply obtainable, we’re porting the instruments to be usable along with the WATCOM open supply compiler suite supporting 16 bit code era. This allows us to make the PC/GEOS SDK obtainable for Home windows and Linux. This work remains to be ongoing, however progressing very effectively.”

Rehwagen stated he hopes to launch a beta of GEOS 6, primarily based on #FreeGEOS, within the subsequent few months. Modernizing the platform is a precedence: “We plan to maneuver on with integrating obtainable property into #FreeGEOS as Double-Byte Character Set and Protected Mode assist. Hopefully, we can allow additional developments to assist state-of-the-art options and enhancements of the system,” he stated, with hopes of growing a newly-active neighborhood of builders and customers of GEOS.

Every thing previous is new once more

For extra on revivals of classic computing know-how, try “Retro know-how nonetheless is sensible for some IT tasks,” and “Utilizing a Raspberry Pi Zero SCSI adapter to deliver legacy and retro programs into the longer term” on TechRepublic, in addition to “A professor discovered an Apple IIe in his dad’s attic. And it labored” on ZDNet.

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