OSes Historical OS desktop environments (pictures)

Indian Summer

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I came recently across this article with pictures and fun facts about some of the many desktop environments, from the early days to more recent times.


Do you see any that you recognise? Are there any others that you feel should have been mentioned?

I remember using the Atari ST 1040 in school around 1989-1991, and it had a desktop environment that looked a lot like the early Apple, and may the GEOS shown in the article.
 
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Indian Summer

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I remember using the Atari ST 1040 in school around 1989-1991, and it had a desktop environment that looked a lot like the early Apple, and may the GEOS shown in the article.
It turns out the Atari ST had a version of another desktop environment shown in the article I posted in the OP, namely GEM. However, it's worth noting that the similarity to the Apple Macintosh was a definite thing according to this source:
Due to its graphical user inferface, it was known as the "Jackintosh”, a reference to Jack Tramiel.

The Atari ST was part of the 16/32 bit generation of home computers, based on the Motorola 68000 CPU, with 512 KB of RAM or more, and 3½" double-sided double-density floppy disks as storage (nominally 720 KB). It was similar to other contemporary machines which used the Motorola 68000, the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga. Preceding the Amiga's commercial release by almost two months, the Atari ST was the first computer to come with a fully bit-mapped color GUI, using a version of Digital Research's GEM released that February.
 
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Indian Summer

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A couple of things that strike me reading this article and others like it:
  • Microsoft somehow ended up as the 'villain' even though Apple and others were also quite evil. Apple sued Digital Research, and won(!!!), for their GEM graphical environment, because it was "similar" to Apple's Lisa and Mackintosh graphical environments ...! And for anyone familiar with the "Unix wars", you'll be aware that the different Unix companies also frequently attempted to use the courts against the competitors.
  • The article claims little progress has been made over the years in graphical desktop environments since the beginning. Maybe that is true. And I wonder what the reasons are? I think one reason is the users' conservative attitude. Whenever someone tries to do something new, loads of users complain vehemently. For example, Ubuntu Unity received a lot of hate. Likewise with Gnome 3 and now Gnome 40. Personally, while I think it's fun to look back at some of the old desktop environments, I'm veeery happy for the progress that's been made despite all the backlash.
  • Where will graphical desktop environments go in the future? What new features will we see? What company / project will develop them first? Will voice commands ever become a useable thing? Hand movements? How much longer will we keep the mouse?
 
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This thread reminded me of a video I caught yesterday. Talk about old computer systems. This was quite interesting.

 

Brian W

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I remember learning BASIC on a 380Z at school. You used a cassette tape to store and load programs and it plugged into your TV, having no monitor of its own.
 
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I only fully identified the Xerox and Windows 95. First computer I ever used was my uncle’s Atari with BASIC. In school we used a monochrome Apple II GS. For myself, I started on Windows 3.1, then went to NT 3.51, NT 4.0, 2000, now 10. I used 2000 until 3 years ago but couldn’t do a lot with dialup internet anyway. Anything that required security I did at work. Finally got better service available for the first time in my life about a year and a half ago.

At my old job I used IBM CADAM on a mainframe, even in the late 90s. Loved it.
 
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Indian Summer

Indian Summer

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I did not recognise so many of the desktop environments in the article, actually, despite my almost lifelong interest in computers.

My first computer with an actual desktop system was Windows 3.1. I absolutely hated it! I had seen what marvelous things computers were capable of in the home computer era and with 80386 PCs with MS-DOS before Windows. To me, Windows 3.1 and later versions therefore all seemed like extreme bloatware.

I started at university in 1995 where labs had Unix systems and later Redhat Linux. I installed Redhat Linux 4.1 on my personal computer around 1997. While I did have to use Windows at work for a few years, since 2006 or so I have been able to work entirely with Linux. I've used multiple many different Linux distros since then, as well as FreeBSD, and mostly they have had different versions of the Gnome desktop environment.
 

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I go back to Windows 3.1. Prior to that, pre-working years, I had a Commodore 64, an Atari 800 and various Macs and PCs. I've used just about every version of Windows since (except the big flop Windows BOB). The article makes a good point about "It's amazing how far we've come... yet how little progress has been made." If you haven't seen that 1968 Xerox PARC demo (link below, probably for the historically curious only), it's pretty mind blowing knowing what they figured out before PCs even really existed. En masse, we're really just getting to where they were back then (with some exceptions, of course, such as mobile phones, etc.).


If you really want a historical computational experience, there is an Altair 8800 emulator here. I think I had to read 50 pages of the manual to figure out how to add 2 numbers together.
 
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Indian Summer

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That’s a pretty telling starting point. Not the Vic 20, but its almost identical successor with a whopping 64k RAM that came out just two years later.
Well, it was actually already 1988 before I got my C64, so the Vic20 didn't really make much sense. By then the C64 had a vast amount of games and other software which made it an extremely compelling product. Although, at that point there were already other home computer machines such as the Commodore Amigas and Atari ST machines that had better hardware and also had very compelling games / software offerings. I can't really say exactly why I didn't get one of those instead, but anyway the tail end of the C64 era was quite spectacular, so I'm thankful for having had that experience.
 
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