Graphical Kernel System
Year started1977; 47 years ago (1977)
Latest versionISO/IEC 7942-4:1998
1998; 26 years ago (1998)
OrganizationANSI, ISO, IEC
Related standardsANSI X3.124, ISO 8651, ISO 8805, ISO/IEC 8806, ISO 10303
DomainComputer graphics

The Graphical Kernel System (GKS) was the first ISO standard for low-level computer graphics, introduced in 1977. A draft international standard was circulated for review in September 1983.[1][2][3] Final ratification of the standard was achieved in 1985.[4][5]


GKS provides a set of drawing features for two-dimensional vector graphics suitable for charting and similar duties. The calls are designed to be portable across different programming languages, graphics devices and hardware, so that applications written to use GKS will be readily portable to many platforms and devices.

GKS was fairly common on computer workstations in the 1980s and early 1990s.[6] GKS formed the basis of Digital Research's GSX which evolved into VDI, one of the core components of GEM. GEM was the native GUI on the Atari ST and was occasionally seen on PCs, particularly in conjunction with Ventura Publisher. GKS was little used commercially outside these markets, but remains in use in some scientific visualization packages. It is also the underlying API defining the Computer Graphics Metafile. A descendant of GKS was PHIGS. One popular application based on an implementation of GKS is the GR Framework,[7] a C library for high-performance scientific visualization that has become a common plotting backend among Julia users.

A main developer and promoter of the GKS was José Luis Encarnação, formerly director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics (IGD) in Darmstadt, Germany.

GKS has been standardized in the following documents:[8][9]

The functionality of GKS is wrapped up as a data model standard in the STEP standard, section ISO 10303-46.

See also


  1. ^ "Europe calls the tune on computer graphics". New Scientist. 1983-04-21. p. 152. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  2. ^ Straayer, Dave (1983-07-25). "Headway Being Made on Graphics Standards". Computerworld. p. 7. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  3. ^ "Ansi Seeking Comment On Standard for Graphics". Computerworld. 1983-09-12. p. 64. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  4. ^ "ISO 7942:1985". Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  5. ^ "Ansi standards draw attention of graphics industry". Computerworld. 1985-03-25. p. 36. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  6. ^ "HP library implements GKS". Computerworld. 1986-03-31. p. 73. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  7. ^ Josef Heinen; et al. (1985–2019). "GR Framework". Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  8. ^ Catalogue search results on
  9. ^ Catalogue search results on

Further reading