Examples of operating systems
Unix and Unix-like operating systems
Evolution of Unix systems
Unix was originally written in assembly language. Ken Thompson wrote B, mainly based on BCPL, based on his experience in the MULTICS project. B was replaced by C, and Unix, rewritten in C, developed into a large, complex family of inter-related operating systems which have been influential in every modern operating system (see History).
The Unix-like family is a diverse group of operating systems, with several major sub-categories including System V, BSD, and Linux. The name “UNIX” is a trademark of The Open Group which licenses it for use with any operating system that has been shown to conform to their definitions. “UNIX-like” is commonly used to refer to the large set of operating systems which resemble the original UNIX.
Unix-like systems run on a wide variety of computer architectures. They are used heavily for servers in business, as well as workstations in academic and engineering environments. Free UNIX variants, such as Linux and BSD, are popular in these areas.
Four operating systems are certified by The Open Group (holder of the Unix trademark) as Unix. HP’s HP-UX and IBM’s AIX are both descendants of the original System V Unix and are designed to run only on their respective vendor’s hardware. In contrast, Sun Microsystems’s Solaris can run on multiple types of hardware, including x86 and Sparc servers, and PCs. Apple’s OS X, a replacement for Apple’s earlier (non-Unix) Mac OS, is a hybrid kernel-based BSD variant derived from NeXTSTEP, Mach, and FreeBSD.
Unix interoperability was sought by establishing the POSIX standard. The POSIX standard can be applied to any operating system, although it was originally created for various Unix variants.
BSD and its descendants
The first server for the World Wide Web ran on NeXTSTEP, based on BSD.
A subgroup of the Unix family is the Berkeley Software Distribution family, which includes FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. These operating systems are most commonly found on webservers, although they can also function as a personal computer OS. The Internet owes much of its existence to BSD, as many of the protocols now commonly used by computers to connect, send and receive data over a network were widely implemented and refined in BSD. The World Wide Web was also first demonstrated on a number of computers running an OS based on BSD called NeXTSTEP.
In 1974, University of California, Berkeley installed its first Unix system. Over time, students and staff in the computer science department there began adding new programs to make things easier, such as text editors. When Berkeley received new VAX computers in 1978 with Unix installed, the school’s undergraduates modified Unix even more in order to take advantage of the computer’s hardware possibilities. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense took interest, and decided to fund the project. Many schools, corporations, and government organizations took notice and started to use Berkeley’s version of Unix instead of the official one distributed by AT&T.
Steve Jobs, upon leaving Apple Inc. in 1985, formed NeXT Inc., a company that manufactured high-end computers running on a variation of BSD called NeXTSTEP. One of these computers was used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first webserver to create the World Wide Web.
Developers like Keith Bostic encouraged the project to replace any non-free code that originated with Bell Labs. Once this was done, however, AT&T sued. After two years of legal disputes, the BSD project spawned a number of free derivatives, such as NetBSD and FreeBSD (both in 1993), and OpenBSD (from NetBSD in 1995).
The standard user interface of macOS
macOS (formerly “Mac OS X” and later “OS X”) is a line of open core graphical operating systems developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc., the latest of which is pre-loaded on all currently shipping Macintosh computers. OS X is the successor to the original classic Mac OS, which had been Apple’s primary operating system since 1984. Unlike its predecessor, OS X is a UNIX operating system built on technology that had been developed at NeXT through the second half of the 1980s and up until Apple purchased the company in early 1997. The operating system was first released in 1999 as Mac OS X Server 1.0, with a desktop-oriented version (Mac OS X v10.0 “Cheetah”) following in March 2001. Since then, six more distinct “client” and “server” editions of OS X have been released, until the two were merged in OS X 10.7 “Lion”.
Prior to its merging with macOS, the server edition – OS X Server – was architecturally identical to its desktop counterpart and usually ran on Apple’s line of Macintosh server hardware. OS X Server included work group management and administration software tools that provide simplified access to key network services, including a mail transfer agent, a Samba server, an LDAP server, a domain name server, and others. With Mac OS X v10.7 Lion, all server aspects of Mac OS X Server have been integrated into the client version and the product re-branded as “OS X” (dropping “Mac” from the name). The server tools are now offered as an application.
Ubuntu, desktop Linux distribution
Android, a popular mobile operating system based on a modified version of the Linux kernel
The Linux kernel originated in 1991, as a project of Linus Torvalds, while a university student in Finland. He posted information about his project on a newsgroup for computer students and programmers, and received support and assistance from volunteers who succeeded in creating a complete and functional kernel.
Linux is Unix-like, but was developed without any Unix code, unlike BSD and its variants. Because of its open license model, the Linux kernel code is available for study and modification, which resulted in its use on a wide range of computing machinery from supercomputers to smart-watches. Although estimates suggest that Linux is used on only 1.82% of all “desktop” (or laptop) PCs, it has been widely adopted for use in servers and embedded systems such as cell phones. Linux has superseded Unix on many platforms and is used on most supercomputers including the top 207. Many of the same computers are also on Green500 (but in different order), and Linux runs on the top 10. Linux is also commonly used on other small energy-efficient computers, such as smartphones and smartwatches. The Linux kernel is used in some popular distributions, such as Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Google’s Android.
Google Chrome OS
Chrome OS is an operating system based on the Linux kernel and designed by Google. It is developed out in the open in the Chromium OS open source variant and Google makes a proprietary variant of it (similar to the split for the Chrome and Chromium browser). Since Chromium OS targets computer users who spend most of their time on the Internet, it is mainly a web browser with limited ability to run local applications, though it has a built-in file manager and media player (in later versions, (modified) Android apps have also been supported, since the browser has been made to support them). Instead, it relies on Internet applications (or Web apps) used in the web browser to accomplish tasks such as word processing. Chromium OS differs from Chrome OS in that Chromium is open-source and used primarily by developers whereas Chrome OS is the operating system shipped out in Chromebooks.
Microsoft Windows is a family of proprietary operating systems designed by Microsoft Corporation and primarily targeted to Intel architecture based computers, with an estimated 88.9 percent total usage share on Web connected computers. The latest version is Windows 10.
In 2011, Windows 7 overtook Windows XP as most common version in use.
Microsoft Windows was first released in 1985, as an operating environment running on top of MS-DOS, which was the standard operating system shipped on most Intel architecture personal computers at the time. In 1995, Windows 95 was released which only used MS-DOS as a bootstrap. For backwards compatibility, Win9x could run real-mode MS-DOS and 16-bit Windows 3.x drivers. Windows ME, released in 2000, was the last version in the Win9x family. Later versions have all been based on the Windows NT kernel. Current client versions of Windows run on IA-32, x86-64 and 32-bit ARM microprocessors. In addition Itanium is still supported in older server version Windows Server 2008 R2. In the past, Windows NT supported additional architectures.
Server editions of Windows are widely used. In recent years, Microsoft has expended significant capital in an effort to promote the use of Windows as a server operating system. However, Windows’ usage on servers is not as widespread as on personal computers as Windows competes against Linux and BSD for server market share.
ReactOS is a Windows-alternative operating system, which is being developed on the principles of Windows – without using any of Microsoft’s code.
There have been many operating systems that were significant in their day but are no longer so, such as AmigaOS; OS/2 from IBM and Microsoft; classic Mac OS, the non-Unix precursor to Apple’s Mac OS X; BeOS; XTS-300; RISC OS; MorphOS; Haiku; BareMetal and FreeMint. Some are still used in niche markets and continue to be developed as minority platforms for enthusiast communities and specialist applications. OpenVMS, formerly from DEC, is still under active development by Hewlett-Packard. Yet other operating systems are used almost exclusively in academia, for operating systems education or to do research on operating system concepts. A typical example of a system that fulfills both roles is MINIX, while for example Singularity is used purely for research.