Task: Try the Diamond Graphical Operating System
Needed: Diamond GOS ATR file
Time: 10-15 minutes
The command line interface of DOS was cumbersome, but we didn’t mind because we were pioneers in the early days of home computing. It was all we knew and it was all exciting and fun. That all changed when the first Mac came out in 1984 and showed us what a graphical operating system (GOS) could do. Microsoft Windows for PC and the 16-bit Atari ST with the Graphics Environment Manager (GEM) GOS came out a year later. I honestly don’t recall being too excited about GOS at the time. Maybe I was and just can’t remember. I was still very much living in the 8-bit Atari world. It wasn’t until the late 80s before I got to try the Mac and Windows PCs. I never had an ST until just recently. Regardless, I am sure there were plenty of people who were very much aware of the Mac/PC/ST GOS and wished the 8-bit Ataris could do the same.
In 1988 Reeve Software announced the first GOS for the Atari 8-bit computers. The software was called Diamond GOS and ran on 64K or higher XL and XE computers. The GOS interface looked very much like that of the Atari ST and some even called it the ST junior. A screenshot of Diamond GOS running on my 800XL with 64K of RAM is shown below on a CRT monitor. It comes with drop-down menus and a nice point and click interface. A nice feature is that it comes with a driver to allow you to use an ST mouse which plugs into the joystick port. I tried this and it works great. Amazing and kind of a weird way to point and click your through an 8-bit Atari for the first time. There are also drivers for the Koala Pad and the Atari Touch Tablet. Reeve Software also released some programming tools and compatible versions of paint and write software. I highly recommend you give this a try.
Diamond GOS is available from several different places. I downloaded this ATR file that has much of the software on it. You can then boot this from your PC using SIO2PC and APE. Here is a version 3.0 ROM that was dumped from one of the cartridges and posted to Atari Age. Here is the user manual PDF.
This is really fun to play with. Here is a review from Antic Magazine in 1989. Here is a piece from 1989 in ANALOG Magazine. Here is an interview with the creator Alan Reeve on the ANTIC podcast. There is a thread on Atari Age that discusses Diamond GOS and some of the different versions. Interestingly, Reeve Software is still in business and they mention some of the Diamond GOS history on their website. There also seems to be some newer efforts to develop GUIs for the Atari.