The History of Computer Operating Systems

What May Surprise You About Computer History

Although most modern operating systems are derivative of Unix technology that was developed by AT&T in the 1970's, there have been some branches that have made more of a historic impact than others. Here are some of highlights in the history of computer operating systems over the past 40 years.

Apple: revolution and then adaptation

Steve Jobs was the undeniable champion of creating a computer product that everyone wants to buy. After building Apple into a large company in the early 1980's, he had his team create the Macintosh with its Apple operating system- allowing designers and creative types to go far beyond where they were able to go digitally in the past. Flash forward to the 21st century and you have Steve Jobs and his team doing it again, building the Ios platform that is in use today on top of Linux so that Apple could be flexible with hardware and build more of a base with software developers.

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Microsoft: we weren't trying to be a monopoly

When IBM asked Bill Gates if he could contribute a operating system for their new PC desktop product in the early 1980's, he told them it would be better if they went to see the makers of PC-D0S in the Bay Area because they might be a good fit. IBM went there and did not interface well with the owners and so they returned and asked Bill Gates again if he could help them. DOS, and then Windows were born, with some Unix-like functionality that remains in the software until this day.

Google: why can't there be a better interface?

Although Google started creating its Android project for smartphones a little over 10 years ago, they were far behind Nokia, which was developing its own smartphone in San Diego. What Google saw clearly at the same time as Apple was that creating something powerful with an intuitive interface, and then backing it up with a lot of applications, would allow them to gain market share. They now control the mobile market for tablets and smartphones. They also have a strong following for their Chrome platform designed for laptop users that want to focus on using online applications.

Although the history of software is littered with products from vendors that faded away, there are always more on the horizon. Linux is another platform that has continued to maintain its following over the past few decades, underpinning several new OS offerings from vendors seeking to create growth in the mobile market space.