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OU: Living With Technology T102

11 June 2018

GEM (Graphical Environment Manager) was written by Digital Research as a GUI for DR-DOS. It was very similar in appearance to Apple's Lisa and Mac OSes, especially in version 1. It did not do terribly well in the end, but it did find two niches. It was host to Ventura Publisher in its early iterations, and it also served as the GUI for some Atari computers.

There were many GEM programs written for Atari TOS, but hardly any were made for the PC version. That makes the following application all the more interesting, as it joins a small list of PC-GEM programs.

T102: Numeracy

Written sometime around 1990 by The Open University, this was a complete course module that could be studied on a PC. It was interactive, had some basic animations and could save progress between sessions. There are both tutorials and practice tests.

One of the course disks.

One of the course disks.

It could be run directly from the 360K disks, or copied to a hard disk (or some other bigger disk) for easier use.

Misfortune...

I have to give myself a good kicking every now and again, because of this... I originally had 5 disks: 3 main course disks (1a, 1b and 1c), a student disk and a supplemental disk "0". Due to a careless incident back in the early 2000s, I lost the contents of disk 0, and as such they might be lost forever. :(

One of the programs that was on disk 0 was a nifty GEM line calculator applet. (Applets can be executed by choosing it from the menu in the top right.) I do still have the MS-DOS line calculator program though, which was stored on the student disk for some reason.

Gallery

Here is a gallery of screenshots from the application. Click on any image to get a closer view.

Title screen. Main menu screen.
Introduction screen. Topic selection screen.

These screens let you access the course contents.

Tutorial screen 1 (thermometer). Tutorial screen 2 (explanation).
Tutorial screen 3 (number line with puffin). Getting an answer wrong.

This little puffin flies into the screen and hops around the number line. If you get an answer wrong, it makes you enter each step into the program, one at a time.

Graph tutorial exercise screen. Gradients tutorial screen.

The graphical abilities of GEM are put to use here. The cursor becomes a pair of crosshairs over the graph, allowing you to click on certain areas as requested.

Powers demonstration. About screen.

All of the applications have their own about screen. The versions I have vary between either 1.0, 1.1 or 2.0. All of them are copyrighted between 1989-91.

Footnote

If you have any other disks from this set, I would be very interested to hear about it!

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