An Introduction to Operating Systems

An operating system, also known as an OS, is an application that links the computer hardware to a user-friendly interface and allows its users to install and run various software applications.

The first few operating systems were developed back in 1950, even though they didn’t exist in their modern form until 1960. Back then, a computer couldn’t run more than an application at the time.


At first, companies have designed a dedicated operating system for each one of their computers. During the 1960s, IBM has built an OS that was able to run on their entire product line.

Most modern OSs make use of time sharing; an internal clock allows multiple threads to run in parallel, and thus execute several applications at the same time. The active applications called various system functions, or are paused by the operating system, which allocates more resources to vital apps.

Smartphones, tablets, computers, game consoles and similar devices make use of an OS. Top desktop operating systems include Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X and Linux. Top mobile operating systems include Android and iOS.

Single user OSs lack the ability of distinguishing between users. On the other hand, multiuser operating systems are able to allocate various system resources to each user: apps, storage space, and so on.

Embedded operating systems are built into computer chips, and are usually designed for applications that don’t need many resources to run. These OSs are very efficient, allowing the creation of tiny devices that are fast and don’t use a lot of power.


An early operating system was CP/M, which has served as an inspiration source for Microsoft’s MS–DOS. Apple was the first company to include an attractive graphical user interface in its OS. A few years later, Microsoft built its own graphical OS interface – Windows 3.1, which was running it on top of MS-DOS.

Later on, Richard Stallman developed the GNU project, with the goal of creating a 100% free operating system. Linus Torvalds, a finish computer science student, announced the Linux kernel in 1991. His project merged with the GNU kernel, leading to the creation of the Linux operating system.

Here’s the 2016 desktop OS market share, according to Data Alliance’s researchers.


Google Chrome OS is a recent operating system that was developed by Google and is based on Linux. The OS has a built-in file manager, media player, and several other apps. Its main goal is to make use of online applications, though.

Microsoft Windows targets computers based on the Intel architecture. This OS was first released in 1985. The latest version is Windows 10, and it is able to run on 32 and 64 bits CPUs, including 32-bit arm microprocessors.

Apple’s OS X is the successor of Mac OS, the company’s proprietary operating system, which has been used as a primary OS for over 20 years.