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Personal Computer Operating System History Since 1980

Personal computer operating systems have evolved with the development of personal computing power and user expectations and use. The 80s decade of the history of computer operating systems started with the introduction of apple computers that did not follow the then famous IBM architecture. Apple computer introduced the Macintosh which has a graphical user interface implementation on its operating system (OS). This new OS introduced the use of a mouse as a pointing device and command input device for users to interact with the operation system (Guterl, 1984).

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The Apple operating system was closed, therefore attracting very few software developers. Microsoft was an early developer of Macintosh software and using this experience learned the details of the graphical user interface. In 1985, Microsoft introduced the Windows 1.0 operating system, the company quickly obtained legal authority to use the visual components found in the Macintosh so that it avoids any arising legal trouble. Before the introduction of the Windows OS, Microsoft offered the MS-DOS, which was faster than the Windows version 1 but lacked a graphical system. One of the main reasons for this was the fact that the IBM-compatible computers running MS-DOS did not have a fast enough Intel processor to run an OS with a GUI.

When faster microprocessors became available, Microsoft released version 2 of its Windows OS. The success of Windows 2.0 was made possible by the inclusion of spreadsheet and word processing software in the OS. In 1987, Microsoft and IBM began developing a joint OS named OS/2. The OS/2 was eventually released in 1988. The initial version was a market failure and Microsoft ignored later developments and decided to concentrate on its Windows OS. The Windows version three was introduced in 1990 and continued to be successful in the market and become the dominant OS worldwide. IBM managed to release OS/2 which was an improved version of OS/1 and technically superior to Windows 3.0. However, OS/2 failed to have a commercial success because of an inadequate software package supply to support it and a poor marketing strategy (Ichbiah & Kneeper, 1991).

Other than the mainstream OS outlined above, there were independent collaborative efforts to create other operating systems. A clone of UNIX the popular OS for servers was developed in 1982 by Richard S. Stallman. The OS was named GNU to infer that Gnu’s Not Unix. Unlike Windows and Macintosh, GNU was free to use and modify. The development of Linux as a personal computer version of the UNIX system inspired other personal projects on the same (Raymond, 2000).

The development of Operating Systems has continued on the same design of implementation being maintained by each company. Independent collaborators have continued to create versions of GNU/Linux and Apple still develops closed OS for its computers. With the introduction of mobile devices with enough power to rival desktop computing power, new uses have emerged and these devices such as palmtops, netbooks and tablets now have operating systems. In this new sub-segment of personal computers, other players like Google have joined Microsoft and Apple in creating Operating Systems with their Android OS being deployed on netbooks. In addition, the spread and popularity of the internet have introduced a new concept of cloud computing and now Google intends to avail a new kind of operating system for personal computers that place the bulk of its processing tasks on the internet servers rather than the individual computer (Horsey, 2011).

Increased networking needs have given OS vendors a new reason to move their file storage options to the internet. The file system storage on individual PC is being phased off gradually. Since the introduction of its most popular OS, Windows XP, Microsoft has strengthened the delivery of security patches for the OS through the internet. Windows XP was availed in several versions for specific devices and user demands in recognition of the evolvement of the PC. Windows Vista was the successor of XP from 2006 to 2008 and it was hinged as a security solution to the vulnerabilities of XP on hackers and viruses. The GUI was redesigned to take advantage of the powerful processor capacities of new PCs. Since 2009, Windows 7 has been shipping and it combines the stability and usability of XP while being secure as Vista. Microsoft is also developing Windows 8 that will take advantage of cloud computing and allow users to access programs from Microsoft servers to do their daily computing. The trend for new OSes including Windows 8 Chrome and Android is to have a simpler architecture on the user side by moving core processing tasks away from the PC to the servers. Therefore, the OS will be transforming the PC to be a mobile terminal (Windows, n.d.).


Guterl, F. (1984). Design Case History: Apple’s Macintosh. IEEE Spectrum, 34-43.

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Horsey, J. (2011). First chrome OS desktop computer unveiled by Xi3 corporation. Web.

Ichbiah, N., & Kneeper, S. (1991). The making of microsoft. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing.

Raymond, E. S. (2000). A brief history of hackerdom. Web.

Windows (n.d.). A history of windows: Highlights from the first 25 years. 2011. Web. 

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