Atari licensed Digital Research's GEM graphic user interface for the ST. As https://www.filfre.net/2015/04/the-68000-wars-part-2-jack-is-back/ puts it:

And of course in the wake of the Macintosh the ST simply had to ship with a mouse and an operating system to support it.

It was this latter that presented by far the biggest problem. While the fairly conservative hardware of the ST could be put together relatively quickly, writing a modern, GUI-based operating system for the new computer represented a herculean task. Apple, for instance, had spent years on the Macintosh’s operating system, and when the Mac was released it was still riddled with bugs and frustrations. This time around Tramiel wouldn’t be able to just slap an archaic-but-paid-for old PET BASIC ROM into the thing, as he had in the case of the Commodore 64. He needed a real operating system. Quickly. Where to get it?

He found his solution in a very surprising place: at Digital Research, whose CP/M was busily losing its last bits of business-computing market-share to Microsoft’s juggernaut MS-DOS. Digital had adopted an if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em mentality in response. They were hard at work developing a complete Mac-like window manager that could run on top of MS-DOS or CP/M. It was called GEM, the “Graphical Environment Manager.” GEM was merely one of a whole range of similar shells that were appearing by 1985, struggling with varying degrees of failure to bring that Mac magic to the bland beige world of the IBM clones. Also among them was Microsoft’s original Windows 1.0 — another product that Tramiel briefly considered licensing for the ST. Digital got the nod because they were willing to license both GEM and a CP/M layer to run underneath it fairly cheap, always music to Jack Tramiel’s ears.

Just how cheap was it? How much did Atari pay DR? And what sort of terms were involved?

  • 5
    Would be interesting to know what Amstrad paid for it too. It was included with the PC1512.
    – user
    Jun 29 '20 at 8:54
  • 2
    @user there were several companies selling their home/soho machines with GEM. Think Philips Yes and alike.
    – Raffzahn
    Jun 29 '20 at 15:02
  • 3
    @tofro I would normally expect NDA's to have expired after three and a half decades with the companies no longer in business. If they are really for life in this case, that in itself would be an interesting historical fact.
    – rwallace
    Jun 29 '20 at 15:50
  • 1
    Sadly, I suspect that the intersection of “people who would have even known at the time” (C-suite, accountant) and “people who care enough about old technology enough to visit Retro.SO” is very, very small. Of the intersection, the chances that they will remember what the negotiated price was is probably zero. Engineers would have been told “we licensed GEM, take care of the integration” but they would not have been told the licensing cost because it wasn’t relevant, NDA would likely impose need-to-know basis, and it was none of the engineer’s business to know. Jun 30 '20 at 2:05
  • 2
    @tofro - details of other similar deals (eg Microsoft's licensing of SCP's 86-DOS) are known. It's plausible that details of this deal have come to light via a similar route.
    – occipita
    Jun 30 '20 at 8:40

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