In today's world of computing most of us take a lot of things for granted. One of those things is the operating system we use. All I hear out there are complaints about the problems of operating systems. We truly don't know how good we have it and how far we've come from the early days of operating systems. Whether you're a OS/2, Windows or Unix/Linux guy, you'll appreciate how much operating systems have evolved since the birth of computers.
Novell DOS 7
MS Windows 3.1
Most everyone has one idea or another of what an operating system is. So what exactly is the definition of an operating system? There really isn't a universally accepted definition of what an operating system is. One definition, and the one I will be using in this article, is that an operating system is a control program used to manage user programs, prevent errors, protect resources, and resolve conflicts. It's basically the interface between us users and the programs/hardware that we want to use.
We've seen how hardware has evolved and how much of an impact that has had on computing in general. Software is a different story. When we think of software evolution, we think mostly of how games and applications have evolved to become more user friendly, include more features, be more efficient, and generally have faster run times. This really isn't because the software has changed. The potential of software has always been there. The real limitation is hardware. Operating system designers usually are limited to what the hardware designers give them to work with.
The subject of operating systems is pretty broad. There are probably hundreds of operating systems out there. I'd rather not go through every aspect of operating systems, and leave that to an operating systems course. I'm just basically going to go through some history of how early OSes were and what they needed to worry about, then go through some of the current OSes. It's very interesting to see the changes over the years.