Scor­pio News


October–December 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 4.

Page 46 of 55

A Quick Look at GEM

by P.A. Greenhalgh

I have been “playing” with a selection of GEM software for the last two weeks, and had hoped to present a detailed review of it here. However, the information on the various new 80-BUS CPU boards arrived and I felt that the space should be given over to them. Consequently what follows is just a brief over-view and taster, and I hope that I shall write a much more detailed report on GEM and various GEM applications in the near future.

GEM comes from Digital Research, and stands for Graphics Environment Manager. Basically, although I doubt that DR would officially agree with this, its intention is to bring MAC type facilities to PC compatibles, i.e. it provides a WIMPs environment (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pull-down menus.

Installing GEM is a doddle. It supports a wide range of hardware, and you just answer the various options that it gives you. It can be run on floppy or Winchester based systems. Video can be CGA, EGA (in various options), or Hercules. A large assortment of printers are supported, as are plotters. Different mice are supported, and also graphics tables.

With GEM installed you can go out and get a variety of packages. The ones I have are:

GEM Draw Plus GEM Graph GEM Paint GEM WordChart GEM Write

When you get the packages home, you just insert the master disk in a drive, run a program on that disk, and after a bit of whirring it’s all done So what, you say? Well, the clever bit really is the graphics screen and printer support. You see, when you add a new GEM, application to your system you don’t need to tell it anything about your hardware (compare that to putting new WP software on Gemini IVC/SVC!). The software interface between the application package and your hardware is GEM itself. I suppose an analogy can be made with CP/M, as follows: CP/M handle all disk access for any application program, and the program is not interested in whether it is using floppy disk, bard disk, RAM-disk or whatever, and isn’t interested in the exact capacity available; so with GEM applications, they don’t care what the graphics resolution is, whether it’s monochrome or colour, or what the printer or plotter resolution is – these aspects are handled by GEM.

The main portion of GEM is called GEM Desktop. GEM Desktop effectively becomes your Operating System prompt. From GEM Desktop you can basically do anything that you can from the MS-DOS prompt, the chief difference being that you are presented with files as pictures (icon) and your “point” at what you wan to use by using the cursor, which is moved around the screen as you move the mouse.

GEM CAN be driven from the keyboard, but a mouse is a much better proposition. When I first received the software I didn’t have a mouse, and so had no option but to drive everything from the keyboard. This can be a laborious process, as during the learning phase you inevitably tend to make mistakes, or want to try each and every option. In the process you keep finding yourself at totally the wrong corner of the screen, and it seems to take for-ever to move around with the cursor keys. Not recommended!

So, I got myself a mouse (a rather flash, cordless one, actually), and then very quickly became extremely impressed wit the software.

Unfortunately I’im running out of space, and so really there is just one message I would like to get across now. That is that a few people have said to me that they aren’t interested in GEM because they don’t want to run any of the GEM applications. Well, you don’t have to and it can still make a lot easier for you. For example, you want to copy various files from one sub-directory to another. Simple, you can have both directories on the screen at the same time. You use the mouse to point to of the files that you want to copy (they turn from white to black as you select them). You point to the last one you keep your finger on the mouse button and move the cursor to point into the second directory. Release the mouse button and all the files are copied over! Want to erase some files? Again select the ones that you want, point to the trash can(!), and away they go.

GEM Desktop really can make a system much easier to use (even fun ?), and it may even make you confident enough to let your wife and kids onto the system, or is that what you want to avoid!

Page 46 of 55