History Of Computer Operating System

What Is an Operating System?

An operating system is a set of preconfigured software that is used by the computer to understand the user’s intention. In simple words, an operating system works as a bridge between the user and the computer. Because the computer doesn’t understand the human interaction technique or method he only knows binary language like 0,1.

So to communicate with the computer, we need some middleman which is the operating system. Operating systems create an environment where the user can run any programs or communicate with software and all applications in a comfortable and well-organized way.

It also helps manage software or hardware resource such as file management, memory management, input/output, and many peripheral devices like a disc drive, printers, etc. Some popular operating systems are Linux OS, Windows OS Mac OS, VMS, OS/400, etc.

In the early Times if you want to change what a computer is doing we have to change the wires but later on, it was replaced by the operating system. The instruction was given to the computer with punch cards and magnetic tape if we want to run the different programs we have to wipe out the first program from memory and then load another program into memory.

To run more than one program at a time we need a boss program that controls all other programs. The Boss program is an operating system.

The operating system is the most important program that runs on a computer. Every general-purpose computer must have an operating system to run other programs.

OS performs basic tasks such as recognizing input from the keyboard, sending output to the display screen, keeping track of files and directories on the desk, and controlling peripheral devices such as disc types and printers.

Operating systems can be found on countless number of items including mobile phones, ATMs, and even many modern-day automobiles.

How do these Operating Systems evolve Over the Years?

The first generation (1940 to early 1950).

Image: Quora

The earliest electronic digital computer had no operating system. When electronic computers were first introduced in the 1940s all programming was done in absolute machine language. we have to manually tell the machines what to do in binary language.

So what is binary language, let me explain binary language consists of two bits which are zero and one. The machine understands only these two numbers. One means in machine language is yes and zero means no so the machine act accordingly with these two numbers. When we pass the signal as 1 it turns on the bit and when we pass 0 it off the bit.

To communicate with the computer, those days vacuum tubes and plug board are used. The vacuum tubes are very large and sometimes they occupy the entire room with tens and thousands of vacuum tubes. But these are very slow Technologies and creating the infrastructure is very expensive.

After the vacuum tube, a small group of people invented a plugboard that works as a plugin and put some wires into the board. Plug boards are controlling a machine and execute its functions.

All these Technologies are very time-consuming and very difficult to use. During this generation computers were generally used to solve simple math calculations, So the Operating system concept was not necessarily needed at that time.

The second generation (1955 to 1965).

Image: IBM 7090, Flickr

By the early 1950s, an innovation was introduced called punched card. To execute some operations, the user had to insert a card into a slot.

The first operating system was introduced in the early 1950s it was called GMOs and was created by General Motors for the IBM machine the 701. This machine ran one job at a time. The user submitted the data in groups in these machines and the machine executes a single operation at a time.

These new machines are called mainframes and for the first time, these machines are used in professional operations in large computer rooms. But these machines are also very costly and only some government agencies or large corporations can afford them.

The 1960 3rd generation. (1965 to 1972).


The machines of the 1960s were also like the 1950s but there is some major improvement happening at that time. They are much more capable and take better advantage of the computer’s resources by running several jobs at one time.

OS designers developed the concept of multi-programming. At this time the computer is much more capable of working with multiple jobs and other peripheral devices simultaneously. The introduction of multiprogramming was a major part of the development of operating systems.

It allowed a CPU (central processing unit) to be busy nearly 100% of the time that it was in operation. Several mini-computers are also formed like DC PDC1 in 1961 but they can handle a very small amount of operations. Although having just 4 kilobytes or 18 beats of words memory but the cost is very high that a normal user could buy and use these computers.

But these mini-computers have inspired scientists and developers to create the fourth-generation computer or operating systems in the future.

The fourth generation (1982 – present-day).


The fourth generation of operating systems saw the creation of personal computing. Although these computers were very similar to the minicomputers developed in the third generation personal computers are least costly than minicomputers.

For the first time in history, a normal person would be able to own a personal computer.

With the development of large-scale integration, circuit chips entered the system or the personal computer age. This time first microprocessor technology evolved which helps to build a desktop computer for the person.

And in this time one of the major Giants in today’s market Microsoft first built their new personal computer with their windows operating system. Windows operating system was created in 1975 by Paul Allen and Bill gates. The introduction of MS dos in 1981 was the first computer that understands the command language.

Another company Apple created a major operating system called Mac operating system by co-founder Steve Jobs. The Apple Macintosh computer was a huge success because of its super user-friendly nature.

Apple I II III
Image Source: Wikipedia

At this time many more scientists are getting involved in this operating system creation by making it simpler and easier For an end-user like us. So More coders and scientists are involved and lead the way forward.

Here I want to share some great innovations done by some great people in the field of operating systems during this era……..

In 1956 Robert l Patrick of general motors uses the IBM 704 mainframe which is also a mainframe computer.

The name UNIX is still very much popular in the OS world developed by AT&t Bell labs programmers. This u n I x operating system is written in c language which allows the coders to modify it and build different functionalities around it.

In the year 1991 a bright student from Finland,  Linus Torvalds created an operating system called Linux it’s a clone of the Unix OS and till now very much used in large servers and large organizations.

Linus Torvalds

But the most innovative and user-friendly operating system was invented by Microsoft in the year 1993 called the Windows NT operating system.

In a quick time, it gains popularity in the OS industry. So that time NT was primarily used on computers and servers and is completely different from Unix operating system.

After the first release of Windows, NT Microsoft dominated in this field like a king. In 1995 windows develop its operating system and created a whole new operating system called Windows 95 it was the first Microsoft operating system to have a graphical user interface built into it.

Suddenly this windows 95 OS was a tremendous success in the industry and was commonly used all over the world and made Microsoft the Giant in the operating system industry.

After windows 95 in the year, 1998 Windows developed another operating system called Windows 98 there upgraded their operating system to a label that was more user-friendly in different ways. Microsoft was working on building more and more options into it.

In the year 2000 windows 2000 developed by Microsoft was a much improved operating system and graphically it was much more advanced than Windows 98. It looks very modern and it was built to target business-oriented users.

Then one year later in 2001 Microsoft released their most popular operating system Windows XP it’s also an enhanced version of Windows 2000 and it’s widely popular.

After Windows XP Microsoft slow down its release and worked on the feedback given by users. For almost six years they continuously upgrade their OS with new features and add more security and stability to it.

In the year 2007 Windows Vista operating system was launched and Microsoft gives a major change in terms of visual appearance into their OS. But many people find it’s a complex OS compared to XP.

2009 is the year when Microsoft released another version of windows and it’s called windows 7 which is by far the most popular operating system made by Microsoft because of its wide range of services and ease of use. Windows 7 cover 50% of internet users.

Another two releases were done by Microsoft windows 8 which is fully integrated with visual blocks with different colors and looked very attractive also at the same time releases their windows phone OS along with windows 8.

But lots of users are unhappy with Windows 8 operating system so Microsoft works on that and build a whole new operating system and released windows 10 in 2014 which has all the functionalities of Windows 7 and also integrated all the new features which are available in windows 8.

What are the Good things about An Operating System?

    • It helps users to communicate with the computer easily and use all the hardware resources more efficiently. Allow us to input, Analyze and get the desired output of data.
    • With the help of OS, users can perform multiple tasks at the same time like calculating math, Listening to a song, watching a movie, sending mail, surfing the internet, and much more.
    • The Graphical User Interface or GUI helps many people to use a computer with no prior knowledge of it. It provides many Icons, Buttons, and menus for easy navigation.
    • Resource sharing is one of the good services that OS offers. We easily share some files from PC to PC with the help of mail or local PC sharing. Any media file or document file is easily shared and even print with printers.
    • OS also helps to store the data and keep it safe from intruders by using some encryption methods. Only the specific user who had permission can open and use the data.
    • The Plug and Play feature enables multiple devices like a Mouse, Keyboard to work with a PC without the need for any additional driver.
    • The periodical Update facility also helps to add more features to it and strengthen the security of the OS.
    • More people can use it because of its cost-efficiency.

Areas of Concern!

  • The majority of people are using the free version of OS these days because the main version is more costly. So it’s a security concern for them.
  • The Operating System is the heart of a computer and If the central system crashes, the whole communication will be halted, and there will be no further processing of data.
  • Operating systems are highly complex, and the language used to establish this OS is not clear and well-defined. Besides, if there’s an issue with OS users cannot directly understand, and it cannot be resolved quickly.
  • Threats to the operating systems are higher as they are open to such virus attacks. Many users download malicious software packages on their system which halts the functioning of the OS and slows it down.
  • If the operating system gets crashed then your data can be destroyed from O/S.
  • A data breach is also an area of concern in OS where Unknown users can be used your system without your permission.

viruses, ransomware, worms, rootkits, and spyware – all designed to steal or delete your sensitive data, hijack your PC, and monitor your personal and private activity.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Wow! It is amazing how far back computers started in the old times. I do not want to imagine the speeds the computers were running in that time. Plus the operating systems in that time, had so many physical components in order to work. Glad that computers operating systems is so much smaller, lighter and more effective. I wonder how far technology will evolve further as it will not come to a stand still.

    1. Yes, absolutely technology becomes smaller and smarter and during the next 15 to 20 years we definitely see artificial intelligence and robotics are combined with human life to create wonder in the field of health, education, and business.

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