It doesn’t matter whether you have a MacBook Pro or a Raspberry Pi with you; everything is pretty much hardware if it does not have the right Operating System. In other words, Operating System is what brings life to your devices — it is applicable for desktops, laptops and even the Smartphones you use every day. As you know, different devices are shipped with different Operating Systems, which belong to different OS Families. For instance, you will not be able to see a MacBook with Microsoft Windows installed on it.

Computer Operating System Familes

So, we were saying, there are different OS’s for different needs of yours. From the early stage of computing, we have been seeing transformation between and within OS Families. In this article, we shall have a look on the most popular and important Computer Operating Systems and the different Operating System Families they belong to.

DOS

DOS is actually the acronym of Disk Operating System. It’s a family of Operating Systems that were used in the early stages of computing. Functioning of DOS is based on text commands. These commands are inputted using command prompt, which you could find even today in Microsoft Windows. DOS cannot be called an individual OS. On the other hand, it’s a family that has produced a variety of DOS-based Operating Systems. For instance, we can take the case of MS-DOS.

As you can guess from the name, Microsoft Disk Operating System was developed by Microsoft, and its history does go back to 1981. MS-DOS was developed for IBM’s personal computers, and was then extended to many versions. In the same way, you can find other DOS-based Operating Systems — such as Apple DOS, Free DOS, Atari DOS, CSI-DOS and TRSDOS etc. This is a brief concept about DOS, whose characteristics are still found in Microsoft Windows.

Mac OS

As you might know, Mac OS was developed by Apple to power Macintosh computer system. The OS was introduced in 1984 and has maintained its popularity till now. Mac OS was the first Operating System that brought Graphical User Interface into the computing scenario. There’s a story that Microsoft Windows was based on the GUI concepts found in Apple’s Mac OS.

The name ‘Mac OS’ was used only after the v7.5.1 — before which the OS was known as Finder and System. It was in the same v7.1.5 that the OS got a Mac OS logo. Mac OS was developed as an alternative to many Operating Systems that demanded deep technical knowledge. By the use of Graphical User Interface, Apple succeeded in creating a user-friendly Operating System. In its entire history, we’d be able to see two main classifications. This classification is done based on the system architecture in use.

From 1984 to 2000, Mac OS is known as Classic Mac OS. However, starting from 2001, it got rebranded as Mac OS X. Once again, in 2012, Apple rebranded the family to OS X. In the latest update, the upcoming versions of Mac OS will be dubbed as macOS. Technically speaking, it’s UNIX-based Operating System. It’s a closed-source OS with some open-source components in it.

Microsoft Windows

First released in 1985, Microsoft Windows is a family of Operating Systems developed by Microsoft. It was first built by Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation. It’s equipped with a Graphical User Interface that is powered by a concept named WIMP. WIMP is the acronym for Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer.

This system was first used in PCs developed by Apple. It was then adopted by Microsoft Corporation, giving birth to the series of Microsoft Windows. In this course of 30 years, Microsoft Windows have had many updates and versions. Its latest version is Windows 10, which brought several changes in terms of UI and features. Just below Android, Microsoft Windows is the most-used Operating System for personal computers.

Currently, it is a stable Operating System that allows multitasking and other options. A huge number of applications are available via official and unofficial channels — which is a reason why Windows is popular. Nowadays, many PCs are pre-installed with Microsoft Windows OS. Windows is a big family of OSs that consists of different families used for different sectors. For instance, we have Windows Server, Windows NT and Windows Phone etc.

UNIX Operating System Family

UNIX was developed by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (and others, of course) in 1970s. UNIX is actually a family of Operating Systems that have multi-tasking and multi-user capabilities. Though it was developed for Bell Labs, it is having a lot of variants in commercial and non-commercial sectors. UNIX, formerly known as MULTICS, is an OS that does not depend upon hardware for functioning. So, it’s mainly used in server machines. Currently, UNIX is the most used Operating System for web servers.

There are many characteristics of UNIX that make it optimal for server machines on the Internet. For instance, UNIX has in-built capabilities for TCP/IP and multi-user operations. Almost all parts of the OS are written in C Programming language, which is why it’s usable on different platforms. Nowadays, UNIX and UNIX-based OSs are widely used in IT world. The examples include Apple OS X and Linux.

Linux Operating System

Linux is, as we mentioned earlier, a UNIX-like Operating System that is noted for being open source and free to use. The perk of being open source is that anyone can make changes to the Linux Operating System and meet up with his or her needs. It was developed by Linus Tolwards and publicly released in 1991. Despite the fact that Linux was built for personal computing needs, it’s now used in a variety of platforms. The most noted example is Android, which has its base on Linux Kernel.

In the course of time, Linux has received tremendous contributions from developers. The best part is that there are a huge number of Linux distributions — most of them available for free. A user can choose the most appropriate distro to suite his/her needs. The popular Linux distributions include Arch Linux, CentOS, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora and Debian. Ubuntu and Linux Mint are widely used by both experts and common users alike. Thanks to the contribution of Android, Linux is the most-installed Operating System in the world.

OS/2

A series of Operating Systems developed by Microsoft and IBM, OS/2 was used in IBM devices. However, after some time, Microsoft left the OS and it was then developed solely by IBM. This Operating System was released first in 1987 and the last version was released in 2001. Since a collaborative effort by IBM and Microsoft, the OS works fine with DOS and Microsoft Windows. That is, you will be able to run most of DOS or Windows-based apps in OS/2. However, the vice versa scenario isn’t possible. Support to OS/2 was discontinued in 2006. However, further developments are being done under the name of eComStation.

Oracle Solaris

Another UNIX-based Operating System, Oracle Solaris was developed by Sun Micrososystems. It was, then, bought by Oracle Corporation in 2010. Solaris is an operating system that is meant to suit Cloud Computing needs and has all options for Virtualization and Application-driven Software-defined Networking technology. Solaris is also known for the scalability level and some innovative features.

OpenVMS

OpenVMS is the successor to VMS Operating System. VMS Operating System was developed by Digital Equipment Corporation and was meant for devices in VAX-11 Minicomputers series. In its name, VMS denoted Virtual Memory System. The name refers to the architectural system the OS uses. Open VMS is a paid OS, though you have an option to purchase the codes.

Currently, OpenVMS is used for a variety of needs. For instance, a business like Amazon can get the best from this OS — due to its features. OpenVMS has in-built capabilities for time sharing, option to be distributed over different sets of machines, etc. Since it’s using the Virtual Memory Concept, clients of OpenVMS are confident about its power.

MVS

MVS is the acronym for Multiple Virtual Storage. It was an Operating System used in IBM mainframe computers such as System/370 and System/390. This is however different from the other mainframe operating systems of IBM. It has received many extensions in the course of time, such as MVS/SE System Extension and MVS/ESA Enterprise System Architecture Extension. Although the OS is used, it was gradually replaced by modern alternatives.

A/UX

A/UX was released by Apple in 1988. It’s a UNIX-based Operating System that is compliant to POSIX. The OS had the looks and style of Apple Mac but it was based on UNIX family. A/UX was never a mainstream Operating System in a historical overview. That having said, it deserves a place in list.

Computer Operating Systems – Summing Up

So, you have read about the different Operating System Families and the various OS’s from those families. It has to be noted that we have covered the Personal Computing part of Operating Systems. It’s so because the mobile sphere now requires an entirely different article. We know that the list isn’t complete, because there were many minor-yet-significant OSs.