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GEOS was a hugely popular operating environment for 8-bit Commodore and Apple machines. It was developed and published by Berkeley Softworks, who eventually released a 16-bit version for IBM-compatible PCs. Do we have any information on how the name of this system was intended to be pronounced?

I have heard users variously call it as follows:

  • /ˈdʒiːˌɒs/ (JEE-ahss; last syllable rhymes with "boss")
  • /ˈdʒiːˌoʊs/ (JEE-oce; last syllable rhymes with "dose")
  • /ˈdʒiː ˈiː ˈoʊː ˈɛs/ (JEE-EE-OH-ESS; sounding out each letter individually)

What I'm more interested in is how the creators of GEOS pronounced the name of their system. Does any contemporary user manual, advertisement, internal design document, or other "official" material indicate or give hints as to the pronunciation? Are there any audio interviews with (former) Berkeley Softworks employees where we can hear the name "GEOS" spoken?

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  • Heyoss in espagnol!
    – Kartman
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 10:31
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    @Tommy "I'm from Europe" is about as specific as saying "I'm human". Even by ignoring all the places in the east, which were kinda cut off until 1990 anyway, the West in itself was rather variant.. Britain, France, Germany and Italy none like the others. You might want to add detail. In addition 'disks not standard' might as well be time specific. In 1980, maybe, while in 1985, a C64 without a disk drive was a pretty uncommon sight. At least in Germany. And yes, GEOS did make quite some impact with users not switching for 16 bit. When GEOS came in 1986, people even PAYED 70 Marks to get it.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 18:45
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    @Tommy The May 1988 issue of COMPUTE!'s Gazette reported that nearly half of readers surveyed used GEOS. The magazine (and other Commodore-focused publications) dedicated many articles and even regular columns to GEOS. There were even several GEOS-themed magazines and disk magazines.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 18:49
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    @MarkWilliams That was Digital Research's GEM, not GEOS. Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 19:49
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    @Tommy Which in fact brings another difference in European markets to mind. in the UK 8 bit stayed way longer relevant as in Germany. Amstrad as well as Sinclair (Amstrad) sold their machines well into the 90s - the PCW eventually all the way thru them, while the 8 bit market (read new machines) was essentially dead in Germany toward the end of the 1980s - well, except for an unexpected spike in sales in early 1990 to East Germany - and as well other eastern European countries. It was a quite diverse market back then. But differences are still there, look at usage for OOO or FF in DE vs GB.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Apr 17, 2021 at 11:25

2 Answers 2

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I have mostly heard your first option, /ˈdʒiːˌɒs/, and analogously, also /ˈbiːˌɒs/ as the pronunciation of BeOS. My accent has /ɔ/ in this context, so /ˈdʒiːˌɔs/.

This advert, at 2:10, suggests that at least the marketing department also thought it should be pronounced that way.

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  • That advertisement is from Commodore, not from Berkeley, though at the time the former had a deal with the latter to bundle GEOS with its computers, and so I suppose it's reasonable to expect that Berkeley had some involvement in the ad.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 10:35
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    Never trust Marketing so to pronounce your beautiful product name the way you intended it!
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 11:59
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    As per the most famous example: its designer intended SCSI to be pronounced 'sexy'. So they not only found a different pronunciation, but a near opposite meaning.
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 14:24
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    @Tommy: That wasn't the designer. SCSI had been in use for some time, but Apple didn't like the usual pronunciation, so they instructed their salespeople to pronounce it "sexy". Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 22:21
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    Wikipedia credits it to Boucher, the principal architect, but without citing a source. So I can’t claim to have proven truth but if some misattribution has occurred, I promise I didn’t start it!
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 22:36
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I've just turned up an article on GEOS that includes an interview with Brian Dougherty, president of Berkeley Softworks. The article [1], which appeared in RUN, describes how to say "GEOS" using what looks like the pronunciation key used by Merriam-Webster dictionaries:

GEOS (pronounced jē ōs) stands for graphic environment operating system.

Rendered in the International Phonetic Alphabet, this would be /dʒiːoʊs/.

The quoted sentence isn't a direct quote from Dougherty, though it's highly likely that the article's author, RUN editor-in-chief Dennis Brisson, spoke with him directly and thereby learned his pronunciation of the name.

Of course, this contradicts the answer given by OmarL, which also comes from a fairly proximate source (namely, a video by Commodore that presumably had close involvement from Berkeley). It's possible that either Brisson or the Commodore marketing department got the pronunciation wrong. It's also possible that Berkeley did not mandate, or at least did not enforce, a single official pronunciation, leading to its own employees speaking the name according to their own preferences. (This is certainly the case with the name of the organization I work for—it's an acronym that can be pronounced in two different ways, and there's no consistency across or even within employees on which one is used. In conversation people seem to just repeat the pronunciation of whoever said the name last.)


  1. Brisson, Dennis. GEOS one year later. RUN 43:64–67, July 1987.

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