Part 1: Secrets of Geneva - by Al Fasoldt
18 July, 2019 by
Part 1: Secrets of Geneva - by Al Fasoldt
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Here's what Geneva is not:

A new desktop for your computer

Geneva does not replace the desktop (also called the shell or the desktop shell). This means when you boot up Geneva, you don't have icons and windows and a trash can and things like that, unless you specifically run a separate desktop shell.


MultiTOS is made by Atari; Geneva is made by Gribnif. They are similar in a couple of ways, because they both support multitasking and they both take advantage of new code in many programs. This new code provides fancier displays and better menus, among other things. But that's where the connection ends. A very big difference is that Gribnif supports Geneva actively; Atari has all but abandoned customer support for its computers and computer software.

A memory hog

With its support files, Geneva takes up about 5 percent of the memory of a 4-megabyte Atari computer. This is less RAM than the memory taken up by a typical word processor. To make the point more dramatically, if the code in Geneva were written into a displayable graphic form such as you'd find in a GIF picture, it would do little more than fill a single screen of a TT.


Molasses is stuff you make great cookies with. Geneva is stuff you make great computing with. Many computer users assume that a system that can do many different things at once must therefore be much slower than a system that can only do one thing at a time. This is both true and false. Geneva has almost no overhead, so that all the basic operations occur at very nearly the same speed as before. (This is oversimplifying the situation, since what little overhead Geneva does have is often compensated for by its more efficient code.) On the other hand, if you run nine programs at once, you can be sure that each of them will run a lot more slowly than if you ran only one at a time. Geneva can't overturn the laws of physics.

What Geneva cannot do:

Turn soot into Shinola

(I know the saying is usually written another way, but kids and normal people might be reading this, too.) Geneva cannot turn a poorly written Atari program into a well written one. It will attempt to make that program behave, but it can't create a resizeable GEM window in a program that uses a fake-GEM, single-sized window, for example, nor can it force renegade TOS programs that assume nothing else is running from drawing detritus all over the screen. There are MANY poorly written programs for the Atari; fortunately, most of them aren't worth running even on a single-tasking system, and at least some of the rest are being replaced or updated.

Magically impose order on the chaos of printing

When an application for the Atari prints a document, it usually grabs every available ounce of the processor's weight and muscle and refuses to let it go until the document is printed. To put it kindly, this is stupid and unnecessary. But it's so, and Geneva cannot change the way such applications behave. To work properly in a cooperative environment, a program has to be, first of all, cooperative, and nearly all word processors and many other printing applications are completely uncooperative when it comes to sharing the computer with anything else while they send their little bits and bytes to the printer. There's a way to alleviate this; it's called a print spooler. But there is no way for Geneva to get Atari Works, for example, to print in the background. No way.

What Geneva does not require:

A 68030 Atari

That number is the model type of the central processing unit -- the CPU chip -- in what is called (and pronounced as) the "Sixty-eight thousand" chip family. The first chip in this family, the oldest brother, so to speak, is the 68000; it's used in the ST, Mega, STacy, STe and Mega STe. The middle brother, the 68020, was never used officially by Atari, but a younger sibling called the 68030 shines in the TT and Falcon. (And that's why they're actually named the "TT030" and "Falcon030.") The 68030 handles memory a whole lot better than the 68000 and does other things better, but Geneva does not depend on a 68030 chip to do its stuff. Sure, Geneva works faster with the newer chip, and some operations are just plain done better, but that's it.

A humongous hard drive

C'mon, Ataris don't run stuff like Microsoft Word for Windows, which takes up 20 megabytes of hard-drive space just for its own software. A dinky 20-megabyte hard drive can do just fine for many Geneva users. A bigger hard drive is fine, but not for Geneva's sake.

A hard drive at all

Yes, many loyal Atarians never felt the need to add a hard drive to their systems, and Geneva won't force them to. A second floppy drive isn't even needed, although life at the keyboard is made a lot easier with two floppy disks always available instead of one. Even an Atari user with only one single-sided floppy drive can load and run Geneva; it fits easily on a single-sided disk (although that disk would have to remain in the drive if you want to access Geneva's own Help guide).


Is this heresy or what? Here's the author of the world's best-selling guide to NeoDesk (OK, I lied a little; it's free) telling you NeoDesk isn't needed to run Geneva? But that's absolutely true. There is no connection between Geneva and NeoDesk other than the fact that they both come from Gribnif. Period. End of story. Except that, like most tall tales, this one refuses to die. NeoDesk works great as the desktop on a system that is running Geneva, and in fact there's a giant, too-big-to-ignore advantage if you use NeoDesk (which we'll get to later). But Geneva does all its stuff on its own, without requiring NeoDesk. Full stop. End of paragraph.

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