An operating system (OS) is a system that manages the software and hardware resources of a computer (Gude et al. 107). OS executes various tasks such as allocating and controlling memory, controlling inputs and outputs, prioritizing the processing instructions or request, managing files and networking. It may also provide a graphic user interface for higher level functions.
OS has evolved over a long period of time (Stuart 17). The programmers first used serial processing. Up to mid-1950s, there were no OS, and the computer programmers interacted directly with the computer’s hardware. Through the 1960s, various key concepts developed, which drove to the emergence of OS. For instance, the development of the IBM system/360 produced a family of mainframe computers, which were of different capacities and price points, for which a single OS/360 was planned. The OS/360 contained an important advance which led to the hard disk being developed. Another major innovation for the OS was the time-sharing concept. It allowed sharing resources from numerous computers amongst other multiple computer users which interacted in real time with the system. It gave all of the users the access to the machine through sharing. The timesharing system was an inspiration to various operating systems development such as UNIX which was developed in the 1970s and another was VMS. First microcomputers did not have a need for the complex OS that had been developed for minis and mainframes. Another evolution was the personal computer system. The creation of CP/M supported many microcomputers and allowed creating MS-DOS, which became widely used as the OS chosen for the IBM PC. Another concept for OS evolution is parallel system concept. The most system today are single-processor systems in that they only have one main CPU. The development of parallel system enabled sharing of power supplies, cabinets, and peripherals. Symmetric multiprocessing model was another concept which facilitated the formation of Unix OS. Real-time OS was then developed. It was used when there is rigid time requirement on the operation of a processor. Processor control system was another stage in which was dedicated to the single operation and thus, no need to share among concurrent application program. Other concepts were distributed system which is a connection of two or more nodes but the processor doesn’t share its memory.
There are different hardware platforms of operating system (Maglio et al. 71). They include:
Mainframe OS: it is the largest computer and has larger personal storage capacity. It focuses on processing many tasks at once. Thus, making computer suitable for the web server’s duties. They are used for batching, timesharing and transaction processing.
Server OS: it runs on servers which are based on either a workstation, personal computer or mainframe. The users share hardware and software by connecting over the network. They are usually used for print services, web services, and File service.
Multiprocessor OS: this hardware setup which is designed to increase the performance of a computer. A modified version of server OS is usually used with a particular set of the features handling extra complexity which are involved in communication.
Personal computer OS: this type of hardware platform takes one user into consideration. They are used for chatting, writing documents, browsing the internet and checking email. They are commonly home used.
Real-time OS: it is designed to serve real-time applications that process data as they come in without buffering any delay. It is designed to compact, reliable, efficient at resource usage, forsaking various functions that non-embedded computer OS provide, and which might not be used by a specialized application that it run.
Embedded OS: they are generally small. The devices using them such as personal digital assistant provide a limited set of functionalities. They are designed normally not to be resource-demanding with respect to power consumption and memory usage.
Small card OS: the smallest OS on the market is usually used for smart cards. The smart card is a small device with a built-in chip. Some are more advanced to handle more functions while some handle only single operation.
Gude, Natasha, et al. “NOX: Towards an Operating System for Networks.” ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, vol. 38, no. 3, 2008, pp. 105-110.
Spohrer, Jim, Paul P. Maglio, John H. Bailey and Daniel Gruhl. “Steps toward a Science of Service Systems.” Computer, vol. 40, no. 3, 2007, pp. 71-77.
Stuart, Brian L. Principles of Operating Systems. 1st ed. Course Technology, 2008.