Time-sharing operating systems schedule tasks for efficient use of the system and may also include accounting software for cost allocation of processor time, mass storage, printing, and other resources.
For hardware functions such as input and output and memory allocation, the operating system acts as an intermediary between programs and the computer hardware, although the application code is usually executed directly by the hardware and will frequently make a system call to an OS function or be interrupted by it.
Operating systems can be found on almost any device that contains a computer—from cellular phones and video game consoles to supercomputers and web servers.
Examples of popular modern operating systems include Android, BSD, iOS, Linux, OS X, QNX, Microsoft Windows, Windows Phone, and IBM z/OS. All these, except Windows, Windows Phone and z/OS, share roots in UNIX.
A real-time operating system is a multitasking operating system that aims at executing real-time applications. Real-time operating systems often use specialized scheduling algorithms so that they can achieve a deterministic nature of behavior. The main objective of real-time operating systems is their quick and predictable response to events. They have an event-driven or time-sharing design and often aspects of both. An event-driven system switches between tasks based on their priorities or external events while time-sharing operating systems switch tasks based on clock interrupts.
A multi-user operating system allows multiple users to access a computer system at the same time. Time-sharing systems and Internet servers can be classified as multi-user systems as they enable multiple-user access to a computer through the sharing of time. Single-user operating systems have only one user but may allow multiple programs to run at the same time.
A multi-tasking operating system allows more than one program to be running at the same time, from the point of view of human time scales. A single-tasking system has only one running program. Multi-tasking can be of two types: pre-emptive and co-operative. In pre-emptive multitasking, the operating system slices the CPU time and dedicates one slot to each of the programs. Unix-like operating systems such as Solaris and Linux support pre-emptive multitasking, as does AmigaOS. Cooperative multitasking is achieved by relying on each process to give time to the other processes in a defined manner. 16-bit versions of Microsoft Windows used cooperative multi-tasking. 32-bit versions of both Windows NT and Win9x, used pre-emptive multi-tasking. Mac OS prior to OS X used to support cooperative multitasking.
A distributed operating system manages a group of independent computers and makes them appear to be a single computer. The development of networked computers that could be linked and communicate with each other gave rise to distributed computing. Distributed computations are carried out on more than one machine. When computers in a group work in cooperation, they make a distributed system.
In an o/s, distributed and cloud computing context, templating refers to creating a single virtual machine image as a guest operating system, then saving it as a tool for multiple running virtual machines (Gagne, 2012, p. 716). The technique is used both in virtualization and cloud computing management, and is common in large server warehouses.
Embedded operating systems are designed to be used in embedded computer systems. They are designed to operate on small machines like PDAs with less autonomy. They are able to operate with a limited number of resources. They are very compact and extremely efficient by design. Windows CE and Minix 3 are some examples of embedded operating systems.
Unix was originally written in assembly language. Ken Thompson wrote B, mainly based on BCPL, based on his experience in the MULTICS project. B was replaced by C, and Unix, rewritten in C, developed into a large, complex family of inter-related operating systems which have been influential in every modern operating system (see History).
The UNIX-like family is a diverse group of operating systems, with several major sub-categories including System V, BSD, and Linux. The name "UNIX" is a trademark of The Open Group which licenses it for use with any operating system that has been shown to conform to their definitions. "UNIX-like" is commonly used to refer to the large set of operating systems which resemble the original UNIX.
Unix-like systems run on a wide variety of computer architectures. They are used heavily for servers in business, as well as workstations in academic and engineering environments. Free UNIX variants, such as Linux and BSD, are popular in these áreas.
Four operating systems are certified by The Open Group (holder of the Unix trademark) as Unix. HP's HP-UX and IBM's AIX are both descendants of the original System V Unix and are designed to run only on their respective vendor's hardware. In contrast, Sun Microsystems's Solaris Operating System can run on multiple types of hardware, including x86 and Sparc servers, and PCs. Apple's OS X, a replacement for Apple's earlier (non-Unix) Mac OS, is a hybrid kernel-based BSD variant derived from NeXTSTEP, Mach, and FreeBSD.
Unix interoperability was sought by establishing the POSIX standard. The POSIX standard can be applied to any operating system, although it was originally created for various Unix variants.
A subgroup of the Unix family is the Berkeley Software Distribution family, which includes FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. These operating systems are most commonly found on webservers, although they can also function as a personal computer OS. The Internet owes much of its existence to BSD, as many of the protocols now commonly used by computers to connect, send and receive data over a network were widely implemented and refined in BSD. The World Wide Web was also first demonstrated on a number of computers running an OS based on BSD called NextStep.
BSD has its roots in Unix. In 1974, University of California, Berkeley installed its first Unix system. Over time, students and staff in the computer science department there began adding new programs to make things easier, such as text editors. When Berkeley received new VAX computers in 1978 with Unix installed, the school's undergraduates modified Unix even more in order to take advantage of the computer's hardware possibilities. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense took interest, and decided to fund the project. Many schools, corporations, and government organizations took notice and started to use Berkeley's version of Unix instead of the official one distributed by AT&T.
Steve Jobs, upon leaving Apple Inc. in 1985, formed NeXT Inc., a company that manufactured high-end computers running on a variation of BSD called NeXTSTEP. One of these computers was used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first webserver to create the World Wide Web.
Developers like Keith Bostic encouraged the project to replace any non-free code that originated with Bell Labs. Once this was done, however, AT&T sued. Eventually, after two years of legal disputes, the BSD project came out ahead and spawned a number of free derivatives, such as FreeBSD and NetBSD.
OS X (formerly "Mac OS X") is a line of open core graphical operating systems developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc., the latest of which is pre-loaded on all currently shipping Macintosh computers. OS X is the successor to the original Mac OS, which had been Apple's primary operating system since 1984. Unlike its predecessor, OS X is a UNIX operating system built on technology that had been developed at NeXT through the second half of the 1980s and up until Apple purchased the company in early 1997. The operating system was first released in 1999 as Mac OS X Server 1.0, with a desktop-oriented version (Mac OS X v10.0 "Cheetah") following in March 2001. Since then, six more distinct "client" and "server" editions of OS X have been released, until the two were merged in OS X 10.7 "Lion". The most recent version is OS X 10.9 "Mavericks", which was announced on June 10, 2013, and released on October 22, 2013. Releases of OS X v10.0 through v10.8 are named after big cats. Starting with v10.9, "Mavericks", OS X versions are named after inspirational places in California.
Prior to its merging with OS X, the server edition – OS X Server – was architecturally identical to its desktop counterpart and usually ran on Apple's line of Macintosh server hardware. OS X Server included work group management and administration software tools that provide simplified access to key network services, including a mail transfer agent, a Samba server, an LDAP server, a domain name server, and others. With Mac OS X v10.7 Lion, all server aspects of Mac OS X Server have been integrated into the client version and the product re-branded as "OS X" (dropping "Mac" from the name). The server tools are now offered as an application.
Linux (or GNU/Linux) is a Unix-like operating system that was developed without any actual Unix code, unlike BSD and its variants. Linux can be used on a wide range of devices from supercomputers to wristwatches. The Linux kernel is released under an open source license, so anyone can read and modify its code. It has been modified to run on a large variety of electronics. Although estimates suggest that Linux is used on 1.82% of all personal computers, it has been widely adopted for use in servers and embedded systems (such as cell phones). Linux has superseded Unix in most places, and is used on the 10 most powerful supercomputers in the world. The Linux kernel is used in some popular distributions, such as Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Google's Android.
The GNU project is a mass collaboration of programmers who seek to create a completely free and open operating system that was similar to Unix but with completely original code. It was started in 1983 by Richard Stallman, and is responsible for many of the parts of most Linux variants. Thousands of pieces of software for virtually every operating system are licensed under the GNU General Public License. Meanwhile, the Linux kernel began as a side project of Linus Torvalds, a university student from Finland. In 1991, Torvalds began work on it, and posted information about his project on a newsgroup for computer students and programmers. He received a wave of support and volunteers who ended up creating a full-fledged kernel. Programmers from GNU took notice, and members of both projects worked to integrate the finished GNU parts with the Linux kernel in order to create a full-fledged operating system.
Chromium is an operating system based on the Linux kernel and designed by Google. Since Chromium OS targets computer users who spend most of their time on the Internet, it is mainly a web browser with limited ability to run local applications, though it has a built-in file manager and media player. Instead, it relies on Internet applications (or Web apps) used in the web browser to accomplish tasks such as word processing. Chromium OS differs from Chrome OS in that Chromium is open-source and used primarily by developers whereas Chrome OS is the operating system shipped out in Chromebooks.
Microsoft Windows is a family of proprietary operating systems designed by Microsoft Corporation and primarily targeted to Intel architecture based computers, with an estimated 88.9 percent total usage share on Web connected computers. The newest version is Windows 8 for workstations and Windows Server 2012 for servers. Windows 7 recently overtook Windows XP as most used OS.
Microsoft Windows originated in 1985 as an operating environment running on top of MS-DOS, which was the standard operating system shipped on most Intel architecture personal computers at the time. In 1995, Windows 95 was released which only used MS-DOS as a bootstrap. For backwards compatibility, Win9x could run real-mode MS-DOS and 16 bits Windows 3.x drivers. Windows ME, released in 2000, was the last version in the Win9x family. Later versions have all been based on the Windows NT kernel. Current versions of Windows run on IA-32 and x86-64 microprocessors, although Windows 8 will support ARM architecture. In the past, Windows NT supported non-Intel architectures.
Server editions of Windows are widely used. In recent years, Microsoft has expended significant capital in an effort to promote the use of Windows as a server operating system. However, Windows' usage on servers is not as widespread as on personal computers, as Windows competes against Linux and BSD for server market share.
There have been many operating systems that were significant in their day but are no longer so, such as AmigaOS; OS/2 from IBM and Microsoft; Mac OS, the non-Unix precursor to Apple's Mac OS X; BeOS; XTS-300; RISC OS; MorphOS and FreeMint. Some are still used in niche markets and continue to be developed as minority platforms for enthusiast communities and specialist applications. OpenVMS formerly from DEC, is still under active development by Hewlett-Packard. Yet other operating systems are used almost exclusively in academia, for operating systems education or to do research on operating system concepts. A typical example of a system that fulfills both roles is MINIX, while for example Singularity is used purely for research. Other operating systems have failed to win significant market share, but have introduced innovations that have influenced mainstream operating systems, not least Bell Labs' Plan 9.