What is an Operating System?
Computers are playing a vital role in the progress of achieving impossible tasks and improving the way we humans work. Computers revolutionized every domain of life and helped us accomplish every milestone towards our goals. In today’s modern world, we interact and rely on computers each & every time but these interactions weren’t that easy because computers don’t understand our common (high level) languages like English, German, Portuguese, etc. The Binary (a low-level language) is the only language computers can understand. There was a gap in communication between humans and computers, and that gap was filled by the operating system (OS).
We can say that the operating system is a bridge between humans and computers, by which we can communicate and interact with computers, and it isn’t limited to this but manages all of the hardware resources, and provides an efficient way to control the computer processes. When the computers weren’t developed enough, they were operated by writing commands, if you had to interact with a computer you had to memorize a particular command for every operation. In simple words, we can define the Operating System as A system that can provide a convenient way to operate a computer and control its resources is called an Operating System.
The Operating system enhances computer security and enables machines to perform multi-tasking. It involves Graphical User Interface (GUI) which makes the human-computer interaction smoother and more reliable. GUI-based operating systems encouraged non-technical people also to interact with computers and get their job done with simple mouse clicks.
A Short History of Operating Systems
Before the operating systems, the machines weren’t more efficient, they also didn’t have any security features or enough control over the hardware resources to perform multi-tasking. In the 1950s, main-frame computers faced the issue with resources control, when a program was executed there weren’t any options available to terminate the process until and unless that program crashes or completes all of its instructions. In 1956, General Motors (An American Automobile Manufacturing Company) came up with an operating system named GM-NAA I/O for their IBM 704 main-frame computer. Later by the year 1959, GM-NAA I/O was enhanced and modified by the Share User Group and named the Share Operating System (SOS). It provided a new and efficient way to manage buffer and Input/output devices.
In 1961, MIT Computation Center developed the first time-sharing operating system for IBM 709. Later that year, Burroughs MCP (Master Control Program) was the first operating system written in a high-level language called ESPOL (Executive Systems Problem Oriented Language). In 1964, A batch processing operating system named IBM System/360 was launched by IBM for their mainframe computers like IBM 7090 and 7094. This batch operating system was capable of processing groups of multiple similar types of jobs to reduce the setup time before executing similar processes. The concepts of Multiprogramming and multitasking were added to operating systems after 1968. In the year 1969, the Multics (a single-level memory) time-sharing operating system was built, and later the same year, the major era of the operating system started with the launch of the UNIX operating system by Bell Labs.
Unix is a great OS, it possesses all of the functionalities of operating systems like multiprogramming, multitasking, and time-sharing, and was launched for PDP-7. In 1972, the PRIMOS system was launched by Prime Computers for their minicomputers and in 1973 the first GUI (Graphical User Interface) based operating system Xerox Alto was designed, and later on, this concept of GUI was carried out by many other vendors on a commercial level. In the 1980s, the era of personal computers started and in 1981, MS-DOS was developed by Microsoft Company, and in 1984, Mac OS was launched by the Macintosh family.
This list of operating systems carried out by the time and OSes like Linux, Windows, and their competent variants were released back to back and dominated the market one by one and in the early 2000s, mobile phones became popular with various operating systems like Symbian, Java, BlackBerry, Android, and iOS were released and some of them are still being used.
Types of Operating Systems
1. Batch Operating System: The operating systems are mainly used to access the hardware resources to get our job done but the batch operating system has process filtration steps before the interaction with hardware, the jobs are filtered by the operator and then according to their nature the jobs are grouped in a batch and sent to the processor. For example, if two programs are written in C++ and three programs are in python, all these programs are sorted by the operator and grouped into two batches, the first batch containing C++ programs and the second batch containing Python programs.
2. Time Sharing Operating System: There are lots of processes running on a processor and the processor can’t handle all the jobs simultaneously therefore the concept of time-sharing is involved here. Time-sharing & scheduling in OS allowed the system to share the resources into all processes in an equal period, thus multitasking is achieved. Although a single process is being executed in a CPU, the time-sharing technique creates an illusion of multitasking by switching among the multiple processes in a short period. Microsoft Windows OS utilizes time-sharing in a better way, we can experience multi-tasking smoothly in all windows variants like Windows Vista, Windows 7, 8, etc.
3. Distributed Operating System: The Network of multiple computers which are connected for a specific purpose and share tasks with each other is called Distributed Operating System. The interconnected devices can share all of the tasks and programs except the hardware. If there is an overloaded device found in the network the operating system distributes its load over other connected devices that’s why it is called a distributed operating system. Distributed OS has a disadvantage also if the network of distributed OS fails the whole model becomes useless.
4. Network Operating System: A network operating system is used in servers because it can manage the data, manage the user groups, and provide security as well. It has lots of network functions and applications, & can be a medium of communication between interconnected devices, and can transfer the data among them easily.
5. Real-Time Operating System (RTOS): The real-time OS is used in a situation where rapid results are required or in any other application which requires the data or response immediately. The real-time OS (RTOS) acts between the hardware and the application to avoid delay. For example, The Tesla cars self-driving feature uses real-time OS to drive safely, whereas the space rockets, and missile systems also use RTOS for better operation. In short, the RTOS (Real-Time OS) is a deadline-oriented operating system that utilizes 100% of the hardware resources to achieve the desired output.
There are two types of RTOS
1. Hard RTOS: Hard RTOS refers to the system under a strict and definite deadline that must be followed without any delay. This type of system is used in healthcare systems, cars, defense, and other likewise systems. The space telescopes like James Webb use the hard RTOS to be operated from the earth.
2. Soft RTOS: Soft RTOS refers to the systems that have less strict deadlines or the time concern is somewhat flexible for example, remote control systems or real-time insights data of a website.
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Here are the top Operating Systems and their characteristics
1. Chromium OS: This is a Linux-based operating system developed by Google and it is an open-source and free version of Chrome OS. Chromium OS is often used for web browsing and web applications and it was released on the 15th of June 2011.
2. Macintosh OS: Macintosh OS was developed and released by Apple company in the year 1984, for their series of Macintosh personal computers. And later by 1996, the Macintosh OS was rebranded as Mac OS. because Macintosh OS was easy to operate, these personal computers gained popularity and dominated the market many times in history.
3. Linux Operating System: The Linux Operating system was released in the 1990s, and now it can be found everywhere in the modern world, from our smartphones to web servers, the Linux operating is used because of its awesome functionalities and low resource demand. Linux is considered the most secure operating system because it is open-source software and lots of developers contribute to its source code to make it more secure and efficient. There are lots of variants and distributions of Linux available here are some Linux Operating System examples:
4. Microsoft Windows 11: This is a great operating system released in OCT 2021 by Microsoft. it includes the best GUI features and developer and user-friendly design. Windows 11 is the successor of the previous windows 10 version and is based on a hybrid Windows NT kernel.
5. Symbian OS: Symbian OS was released in 1997 for mobile phones and was widely accepted in touch and type smartphones. This OS lost its popularity because of the Android OS’s release and was discontinued after 2012.
6. Android OS: The Android OS was released on 23rd September 2008 to interact with touch screen enabled smartphones, and it revolutionized the whole experience of smartphone usage. Android OS is also a modified version of Linux kernels and since 2008 it is dominating the smartphone market. Android OS is also an open-source OS thus it is also considered the secure smartphone operating system.
There are lots of operating systems available till now but also a lot more improvement is needed in each operating system that’s why vendors push these improvements in a form of software updates. As time passes, we are being more dependent on technology and IoT devices, and the lack of synchronizing between these devices makes trouble, which can be sorted out by putting the high-level operating system to work. The devices we use today experience lots of problems because the operating systems used in them aren’t much smart and responsive, to face these problems the tech companies are developing high-level Operating Systems that can be used on any type of IoT device. Google is developing Fuchsia OS whereas Huawei is developing Harmony OS. In the future, these high-level operating systems may replace all the current operating systems and let the users gain more control over the hardware resources and change the computing experience.