Operating systems provide a set of functions and links needed to control and synchronize computer hardware. These are used by most application programs on a computer. The first computers had no operating system. Every program needed the full hardware specification to run correctly and perform standard tasks, and its own drivers for peripheral devices. Considering the hardware system was evolving and becoming more complex, app programs became a necessity.
If we take a look back to the first computer, the Z1, made from 1936–1938, by Konrad Zuse, it ran without an operating system.
Only 20 years later did we have the first-ever operating system when General Motors produced NAA I/O back in 1956 for its IBM 704.
This was mainly due to the need for integration into the corporate world.
In the 1960s Bell labs started working on the origins of UNIX, the first multi-tasking and multi-user functionality operating system. The first version was available in the ’70s. Unlike the general operating system like that used in GM, where if someone wanted to change a set of functions on a mainframe, they would have to format all the functions of the operating system and start again. This was a big leap forward. Many operating systems today trace their origins back to UNIX, namely: Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Chrome OS.
In 1977, The Apple II series was born. This is a family of home computers which was the first highly successful micro-computer designed by Steve Wozniak. It was an 8-bit computer with the first color-graphics.
The original OS was in ROM (read-only memory) alongside Integer basic which was originally based on cassette. Once the disk had been implemented in 1978, Shepardson Microsystems commissioned the first Disk Operating System (DOS).
Apple Dos 3.3 was the final and most popular version of the software.
In May 1981, MS-DOS was launched by Microsoft and started on the basis of 86-DOS by a company called “Seattle computer products” which was created by Tim Patterson. The original copy of MS-DOS took only 6 weeks to build as it was identical to Digital Research CP/M which was a similar version of the product.
MS-DOS was launched, shipped and used for the IBM personal computer, which was also licensed to IBM but called PC-DOS.
NeXTSTEP is a multi-tasking, object-oriented operating system developed by NeXT Computer. This was initially used in the late ’80s and early ’90s for it’s trademarked workstation computer NeXTcube. NeXT Computer was the platform that created the Electronic AppWrapper which was the first commercial electronic software distribution catalog that collectively managed encryption and provided digital rights for application software and digital media.
The AppWrapper gave birth to what we know today as the app store.
After Apple purchased NeXT they went on to create systems like macOS, IOS, and WatchOS to name a few. In addition, many of Apple’s features and apps came directly from NeXT.
In December 1987, OS/2 was released. OS/2 is a series of computer operating systems, created initially by both Microsoft and IBM. After the fallout from the two companies, after the incorrect positioning of OS/2 and Microsoft 3.1 in 1992, both companies severed their relations.
OS/2 was initially intended as a protected mode protector of PC-Dos.
On May 22, 1990, Microsoft Windows launched Windows 3.0. The graphical environment was the 3rd major release.
Windows 3.0 became a rival to Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga on the GUI (graphical user interface) front.
On September 17, 1991, Linux released its operating system Kernel. Which is the base for it’s UNIX like open-source OS?
Linux is a free OS that is widely known for its distributions such as Ubuntu and it’s commercial use like that of Redhat Hat Enterprise Linux.
It is the leading OS on servers and on mainframe computers and is also the only OS used on Top500 supercomputers. In addition, Linux has the largest installed base of all general-purpose operating systems.
On April 22nd, 1992, Microsoft launched Windows 3.1x, which is a 16-bit operating environment. Windows 3.1 introduced several enhancements throughout its lifespan to the MS-DOS-based platform namely; expanded support for multimedia, improved system stability, Workgroup networking, and TrueType fonts.
On August 24, 1995, Windows 95 was released by Microsoft as the first operating system in the 9x family (versions released after 1995 and until 2000). The major change was 32-bit operating environments and it’s plug and play features.
On June 25, 1998, Microsoft launched Windows 98, which sported a hybrid 16-bit and 32-bit GUI which makes it a graphical operating system. It is an unchanging product and has a boot-stage that runs on MS-DOS. This Windows OS is part of the 9x family.
On March 6, 2008, iPhone OS 1 was the first iOS for Apple’s mobile operating system. An official name was never given to the system. Apple stated that the iPhone ran on a version of its desktop operating system macOS, then known as Mac OSX. When Apple released the iPhone software development kit (iPhone SDK), it then named the operating system as iPhone OS which later on became iOS.
On September 23, 2008, Android was released. Android is a Mobile OS that was developed by Google. Based on the Linux Kernel and other Open Source software. It is designed mainly for Touchscreen devices, although there are other renditions of the OS. Android is IOS’s first major competitor.
On October 22, 2009, Microsoft launched Windows 7 internationally to the public.
Windows 7 was intended to be an upgrade of Windows Vista, its predecessor, and addressed Vista’s poor critical reception while maintaining its hardware and software compatibility.
New features were also added to the OS such as Libraries, HomeGroup — a file-sharing system, support for multi-touch input, “Action Center” interface for an overview of maintenance information and system security, and edits were made to the User Account Control to make it less intrusive.
In May 2011, Google launched Chrome OS which is a Linux Kernel-based OS. It is free software that uses the Google Chrome web browser as it’s a primary user interface (UI). and supports web applications.
Its User Data runs directly off of the cloud, making it the first OS to be cloud-based.
After reviewing some of the most well-known operating systems through the generations, it is evident that there has been a huge advancement in the world of operating systems and how these systems have become more user-friendly and graphics-oriented in order to deliver the best product for engagement to the end-user.
Looking at all the OS predecessors there is a lot more to expect in the future.
We are currently on the precipice of AI, robotics, and blockchain and these sectors will lead us towards different dimensions of Operating Systems.