An operating system is the most important piece of software on a desktop PC, Laptop, Tablet, mobile phone or other device. Even in-car satellite navigation systems require an operating system to run.

The operating system is crucial for managing system resources, installing drivers, creating and browsing folders, creating files, installing applications as well as providing a "springboard" on which you can execute other applications and perform other tasks. The operating system acts as a "middleman" between these applications and the computer hardware. It allows for multi-tasking (in the case of multi-task OS) meaning that several programs can run at once, as long as the hardware is capable of it and adequate system resources are available.

The operating system will be installed on your hard drive or embedded in the devices' flash memory (in the case of mobile phones, PDAs, sat-navs and handheld gaming devices). After the PC has been turned on, and the BIOS has run, the operating system will launch.

Popular examples of operating systems are; Windows, Linux, iOS, Andriod and OSX, these are the five operating systems that most people will be familiar with. Most of them (apart from Microsoft operating systems) share roots in UNIX.

The first generation of computers had no operating systems. Programs were often entered in rows of mechanical switches. The first operating systems were invented as far back as the 1950s, though these were very basic and were limited to resident monitor functions that would allow different programs to run in succession rather than true multi-tasking. General Motors and IBM were behind a lot of the early-use of operating systems in industry. These were known as single-stream batch processing systems.

Though there were experiments pioneering the use of multi-tasking, it wasn't in widespread use. It wasn't until the 1960s that something nearer to modern operating systems were available. These were still batch processing systems like their predecessors, however, they were capable of running several programs at once.

By the 1980s, MS-DOS and UNIX came along (remember we mentioned UNIX earlier). This was really the start of modern operating systems in home computers. Though programs still required execution through a command line, rather than clicking on a .EXE file on a graphical user interface OS like Windows.

It was from these operating systems that modern operating systems were born. MS-DOS was discontinued in the year 2000, though UNIX survives today in various forms. Long before this time though, MS-DOS was only included in Windows for troubleshooting, bootstrapping and backwards compatibility. But it exists today in the form of emulators that provide backwards compatibility for programs such as DOSBox.

And that brings us to the modern day operating systems which are essentially GUIs that have been built on top of these older operating systems like MS-DOS and have evolved to become their own OS. The early 16-bit version of Windows was in fact MS-DOS with a GUI.

The evolution of operating systems is still developing at a rapid pace today. Mobile phones are a prime example. Since mobile phones have become more complex and turned into what we know as "smartphones" the operating systems have had to change a great deal to keep up with this new technology. iOS for example; has had to undergo changes which allows for better multi-taking and also a primitive task-manager for the user to manage their phones' resources and see what's running in the background. These modern smartphone operating systems are beginning to closely resemble those found on a home PC.

There are 26 Operating Systems web directory related resources in this category!

  • Android
    Android is a popular open-source platform from Google. It was unveiled in 2007. Currently, this operating system is available on a wide range of smartphones.
    http://www.android.com

  • CentOS
    CentOS is a Linux distribution based on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It was created with the community in mind aiming to provide the computing community with an enterprise level computing platform for free.
    http://www.centos.org

  • Fedora Project
    Fedora is a Linux OS distribution supported and fully developed by the Fedora Project, which is an open source community that was formed in '03 as a partnership between volunteer contributors and Red Hat.
    http://fedoraproject.org

  • Macintosh OSX
    The current version of the OS used on Apple Macintosh computers.
    http://www.apple.com/osx

  • Red Hat Linux
    Was the primary commercial distribution of this platform. However, in 2003, the trademark name of Red Hat Linux was changed to Fedora Core. Since then, the company has moves its numerous commercial efforts towards products associated with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
    http://www.redhat.com

  • Ubuntu EP
    Has been created and developed by Canonical Ltd., who are based in the United Kingdom. The operating system supports more than 40 different languages and the desktop version includes the graphical desktop environment Unity.
    http://www.ubuntu.com

  • Windows 8
    Personal computer operating system is developed by Microsoft. Windows 8 was released in 2011 at CES and went into manufacturing on August 1, 2012.
    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8

  • Windows Vista
    An operating system (OS), was created by Microsoft to be used on personal computers, including business and home desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and more.
    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-au/windows-vista/help

  • Windows XP Professional
    Offers numerous benefits to system administrators and home users. Some of these benefits included easier and faster problem resolution, fewer critical problems and reliable personal computing.
    http://support.microsoft.com/ph/1173

  • Bebits EP
    Provides freeware, shareware utilities and apps, addressing mostly programmers and IT professionals.
    http://www.bebits.com/

  • Beunited EP
    An international, nonprofit organization working to define and promote open specifications for the delivery of the BeOS.
    http://www.beunited.org/

  • Breadbox EP
    A website for Geoworks Computer Company highlighting the latest releases, as well as the best selling products.
    http://www.breadbox.com/

  • Directions on Microsoft EP
    Offers independent news, analysis and roadmaps of Microsoft technology and strategy.
    https://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/

  • DOSBOX EP
    DOS-emulator that uses SDL-library in order to be compatible with other platforms.
    http://www.dosbox.com/

  • Easydos EP
    Provides documents and numerous DOS commands and concepts, thus aiming to help professionals at their daily tasks.
    http://www.easydos.com/

  • EROS EP
    Provides background, documentation and download for the small, secure and real-time operating system.
    http://www.eros-os.org/

  • Greg Gagner's Publications EP
    Extensive research on disk scheduling, metadata and software updates.
    http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~ganger/papers/

  • Interesting DOS Programs EP
    Provides links to various DOS-based Internet and audio programs, utilities and other applications.
    http://www.opus.co.tt/dave/

  • Litestep EP
    Offers an alternative replacement of the Windows desktop with the AfterSTEP look for those who want a visual update of the OS.
    http://www.litestep.net/

  • MCP Mag EP
    An online community for professionals seeking Microsoft certification. Offers advice and information on becoming certified.
    http://mcpmag.com/

  • Microsoft Windows News EP
    Monthly Windows and Internet magazine that offers information on any kind of Windows that has been released up to the current date.
    http://www.windowatch.com/

  • Shell Extension City EP
    Contains Windows power tools and add-ons aimed to assist both the skilled IT professional and the home user.
    http://www.shellcity.net/

  • The Spin Operating System EP
    An OS that blurs the distinction between applications and kernels. Aimed at professionals and researchers.
    http://www-spin.cs.washington.edu/

  • Warpstock EP
    Annual OS/2 user and developer conference that addresses both enthusiasts and professionals alike.
    http://www.warpstock.org/

  • Windows SFS EP
    A quarterly magazine for Microsoft technologies in the financial marketplace.
    http://www.windowsfs.com/

  • WindowsIT Pro EP
    Online resource for Windows IT experts that includes news, reviews and analysis from fellow specialists in the field.
    http://windowsitpro.com/