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The Evolution of Operating Systems

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The Evolution of Operating Systems

Cheryl Mitchell

Kaplan University


Operating System Concepts

Unit 2 Essay Project


The history of the evolution of operating systems and how they became what they are today is a journey that I am glad to say I have firsthand experience. As a 1983 high school graduate, my first exposure to a computer was a basic computer course my senior year. The computer I was initially introduced to was a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer. We were taught basic programming and learned the major parts of the computer. I was instantly fascinated. In the curriculum of this class we discussed how punch cards were used in older forms of computing. Even then, from punch cards to a disk operating system (DOS), it had seemed we had come a long way. This essay will show the history of the evolution of the operation system and how far we have really come since its beginning.

The Evolution of Operating Systems

The Personal Computer

Upon researching the operating system, I found that it made sense to find out when the need for an operating system emerged. It is difficult to give one answer because it is evident that as computers evolved from the giant vacuum tube computers to mainframe computers to the personal computer, there were different types of operating systems depending on the type of system. The system that is most pertinent to us today is the personal computer. The first personal computer was assembled in 1975 by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) of New Mexico. One of the initial uses for the new personal computer came from the company, Traf-O-Data. It was then discovered that the Intel microcomputer needed software to use it in the manner they wanted. This is how the Operating System was born.

The Operating System

Operating Systems, or OS for short, are programs that enable the computer hardware to communicate with the computer software allowing the computer to operate accordingly. The operating system is necessary for a computer to be of any use to anyone. (Stallings, 2009) Since 1974, the operating system has evolved a great deal. Technology has encouraged the operating system to grow and branch out.

In the early 1970's, one way the operating system grew was when AT&T's Bell Laboratories developed and owned the UNIX operating system. The creation of Unix has led many research and development companies to create their own versions to suit their own needs, whether for distribution or to use for their own companies. Universities, research institutes, government bodies and computer companies all began using the powerful UNIX system to develop many of the technologies which today are part of a UNIX system. Another huge factor in the evolution of the operating system is the concept of "open system". This concept promoted software that provides a combination of interoperability, portability and open software standards, particularly in Unix type systems. The open in open system allows code to be tailored to the needs of a specific user. This along with the increased use in business fueled the increase in use of Unix and solidified its place in the operating system world. (MaxFrame Corporation, 2005)

The Beginning of the Evolution

Around 1974, Dr. Gary A. Kildall of the Intel Corporation, created the Control Program for Microcomputers (CP/M). CP/M was marketed as the first operating system for the new 8080-based microprocessor. This operating system only required 4 KB of RAM. It was not long before Digital Research acquired its largest licensure from Traf-O-Data. To give you an idea of just how big this licensure was, Traf-O-Data is now known as Microsoft. By 1977, CP/M had become the most popular operating system (OS) in the personal computer (PC) industry.

In 1981, Microsoft paid Seattle Software Works for an unauthorized clone of CP/M, and Microsoft licensed this clone to IBM. IBM marketed this package as PC-DOS on its first IBM PC in August of 1981. From here Microsoft marketed CP/M as MS-DOS or Microsoft DOS 1.0, which it licensed to computer OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) such as Compaq, and many others (MaxFrame Corporation, 2005).

Applications are what drove the success of the personal computer, and the IBM PC could run most of the popular "killer applications." A couple of these "killer applications" were of the work processing and spreadsheet persuasion. This made the personal computer model a must for businesses because everyone in an organization could use PCs to improve productivity. PCs replaced the calculator and the typewriter with one machine and then paved a road to eliminating the filing cabinet with another productivity tool called the database.

The Disk Operating System (DOS) is what was used when I first learned about computers in 1982. We used a Radio Shack TRS-80 with just one disk drive. Our instructor asked us to insert a 5ΒΌ" floppy disk that contained an operating system that would run the computer once inserted in the disk drive and powered up. The Disk Operating System was a command driven operating system for microcomputers. This was the way that we computed.

Then progress happened. In 1982, IBM introduced a new version of its PC with a hard disk. They called it the PC XT. The used the faster hard disk to boot the computer and run the PC instead of using the very slow floppy disks. This hard disk enabled users to load DOS and other programs and applications permanently onto a hard disk. The first XT models had 5 MB or 10 MB hard disks and 640 KB of RAM (MaxFrame Corporation, 2005).

The Main Operating System

After the IBM PC XT, around 1984, came the new and improved IBM PC AT. This PC had the first 16 bit bus to interconnect its parts. Its operating system was the new IBM/Microsoft DOS 3.0. It was not long before there were IBM compatible personal computers being produced. This was a definite catalyst in DOS 3.0 becoming the main operating system for these computers from the 1980s to the mid 1990s. Another catalyst in the evolution of the operating system can easily be the UNIX



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