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GEM, short for the Graphics Environment Manager, was a desktop environment written by Digital Research.

GEM is compatible with DOS, which was itself a clone of Digital Research's own CP/M. However, GEM was best known for being the official desktop environment of the Atari ST. This version was written for TOS, Atari's port of Digital Research's GEMDOS.

Much like the Apple Macintosh's System at the time, GEM has a graphical user interface featuring windows, icons, menus, and a pointer, but can still only run a single application at a time, always full-screen. Digital Research eventually made a multitasking version, X/GEM, but not being on the ST, this version was relatively obscure.

Technical notes

GEM's API consists of AES (the Application Environment Services, used for the WIMP aspects) and VDI (Virtual Device Interface, used for things like drawing shapes).[1]

On top of the API for programmers, there's an AES-based desktop environment for users, simply called Desktop. Desktop allows you to visually find, copy, and delete files and applications.


  1. Compute!'s Technical Reference Guide — Atari ST, Volume Two: AES Sheldon Leemon, 1987, ISBN 0-87455-114-5, p. 4

Deep dives

Desktop environments: CDE | GEM