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Computer Basics: 5 Examples of Operating Systems

Paul's passion for technology and digital media goes back over 30 years. Born in the UK, he now lives in the US.

What is an Operating System?

An operating system (OS) is the software that supports a computer's basic functions, such as managing the computer's hardware, programs, and processes.

All computers and computer-like devices, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, need an operating system to function.

As the operating system provides a computer's fundamental user interface, it has a major effect on how users interact with their device. A laptop with macOS, for instance, provides a different user experience to one with Microsoft Windows.

The same goes for smartphones where users often have strong preferences between iPhones, which use Apple's iOS, and phones that use an Android-based OS.

5 Operating System Examples

  1. Microsoft Windows
  2. Apple macOS
  3. Android
  4. BlackBerry 10
  5. Linux

I will give more information below on each operating system listed.

1. Microsoft Windows

The Windows operating system was created towards the end of 1985 by Microsoft, and would come to dominate the personal computer market, overtaking Mac OS which had been introduced the year before. Although Windows still continues to be the most widely used OS for personal computers, it has failed to fully breakthrough into the smartphone market, where most devices use Android.

The roots of the Windows OS go back to a program called "Interface Manager", which Microsoft began work on in 1981. The fruits of this project would eventually produce Windows 1.0, which was intended as a rival to Apple's operating system. Windows 1.0 was an incomplete operating system, essentially just an extension of MS-DOS, and failed to gain popularity.

The next version of Windows would turn out to be more popular, although it would prompt Apple to file a suit against Microsoft alleging copyright infringements. The legal dispute would be eventually resolved in Microsoft's favor. By the late 1990's, Microsoft had become the commercial leader in operating systems for personal computers, both for home and business use.

2. Apple macOS

macOS is the operating system that powers Apple computers. It is the second most commonly used desktop OS after Microsoft Windows. macOS is based on the Unix operating system. It was developed by a company that was set up by Steve Jobs after he left Apple in 1985 called NeXT.

The first Macintosh operating system, known as the "classic" Mac OS, was released in 1984. It spawned a major series of operating systems, which eventually ended with Mac OS 9 in 1999. The first desktop Macintosh operating system was known as Mac OS X 10.0 and was introduced in 2001. Apple then named its operating systems after big cats for a period, ending with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. This was followed by using places in California for naming purposes.

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In 2012, Apple shortened the name to "OS X". Then in 2016, altered it to "macOS".

3. Android

Android is a popular operating system developed by Google and based on the Linux kernel (see #5). Although Android was mainly designed for powering touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, there are also variants for devices such as games consoles, wearables, watches and car stereos.

While Google continues to actively develop the platform, Android’s open source code and permissive licensing also allows hardware manufacturers and phone carriers to adjust, customize, and distribute the OS freely. This approach has helped to ensure that Android has been the most popular OS in the world on smartphones since 2011 and on tablets since 2013.

Google products are designed for optimum performance on Android devices, the result being that users with Android phones or tablets get the most from applications such as Google Maps, Google Play Store, Google Goggles, Google mobile voice search, Google Wallet, and YouTube for Android.

4. BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry 10 was introduced in January 2010 as a replacement for both BlackBerry Tablet OS and BlackBerry OS. BlackBerry Tablet OS is a QNX-based operating system designed specifically for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer, which was first released for sale on April 19, 2011. BlackBerry OS is a mobile operating system designed to power the company's line of smartphones.

In 2016, BlackBerry Limited stopped manufacturing smartphones and licensed TCL Communication to make them under the name BlackBerry Mobile. BlackBerry Mobile smartphones ceased to use BlackBerry 10 and instead adopted the Android operating system.

5. Linux

Linux is a family of open source operating systems based around the Linux kernel, created by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds in 1991. The term Linux is often used to refer not just to the Linux kernel, but in addition to the set of programs, tools, and services that are usually bundled together with the Linux kernel to enable a fully working operating system.

Being open source means that the code used to create Linux is free for the public to use. Users can also view, edit, and, provided they have the necessary skills, contribute to Linux. There are a number of other open source operating systems around that are not led by any single company, but Linux is the best-known and most-used.

The high degree of customization possible makes Linux very versatile. Computer servers, cars, and Android phones, as well as many common devices, such as televisions, smartwatches, cameras and personal video cameras use Linux.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Paul Goodman


Susan Lus on September 16, 2019:

I found this very interesting. There are people I know who don't think of their smartphones as small computers.

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