Operating System History

I think the mark of a true geek is someone who can actually partake in a meaningful conversation relating to a technology which was pioneered half a decade before they were even born.This realisation comes after yours truly found himself today discussing the old CP/M Operating System with our web guy and the PC techie.

The trip down memory lane got me thinking that perhaps it would be nice to remind ourselves of the path we have walked to have become unfortunate enough to end up with Windows as the most popular choice of Operating System.

CP/M – Created back in 1976, this command line based Operating System was developed to provide 8-bit computer users with an easier way of managing the most basic of computer functions, as well as installing and programming applications.It would be fair to say that the younger MS-DOS was very closely based on CP/M and indeed many of the Operating System structures and commands were retained.

DOS – Of course, there were in fact several different flavours of DOS available from various vendors but MS-DOS was the one that was used by most.Released in 1981, Microsoft continued to develop this Operating System right up until the release of Windows 95, at which point it was phased out.DOS was a command based Operating System without any form of graphical interface which remained popular even after the introduction of Windows due to the fact that not only was it faster and less hardware intensive but also that it was actually required as a base for Windows to run on top of.Up until Windows 95, your computer would load itself in to DOS by default and those that wanted to use Windows would actually have to load it on top of MS-DOS as a secondary Operating System.

GEOS – This remarkably compact Graphical Operating System was originally designed for the Commodore 64; a machine with just 64k of RAM and a 1 MHz processor.Released in 1986 by a company called Berkeley Softworks, GEOS went on to become the third fastest selling Operating System in the world at one stage. Despite the ridiculously miniscule system requirements, GEOS was a nippy Operating System which looked very similar to MacOS which ran on a machine costing ten times the price.

OS/2 - Originally a joint venture between IBM and Microsoft in 1987, at one point Microsoft publically insisted that OS/2 was the future and technically speaking, it was superior.Microsoft however managed to bundle Windows 3.0 with many new PC’s (a tactic they have been able to continue up through the years) and as such OS/2 become considered an expensive alternative.Unsurprisingly, the marriage between the two companies hit the rocks and despite IBM soldering on until 2001, OS/2 never managed to enjoy the success that Windows had.

AmigaOS– I truly think that the Amiga OS deserves to be remembered as one of the most revolutionary Operating Systems in history and to me it represents a remarkable technology that it took years for Windows to catch up with.The AmigaOS which was initially introduced back in 1985 for the Commodore Amiga line of machines and not only was it nippy, stable and incredibly fully featured but it also included support for multitasking; something that we take for granted nowadays but was the holy grail of computing back then.Unfortunately financial issues at Commodore led to bankruptcy which largely resulted in development on the Amiga platform being abandoned.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.