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Other Operating Systems
by John Anthony

There are many operating systems in existence. I have chosen to list a few that I believe are important milestones in the evolution of post-mainframe computers.

DOS (Disk Operating System)

PC-DOS, developed under Bill Gates of Microsoft, was the first operating system that ran on the IBM PC (released in 1981). It was the world's first mass market PC. MS-DOS is a Microsoft version almost identical to PC-DOS that Microsoft retained the right to distribute.

DOS is a text based operating system meaning that all commands are typed. The now familiar point and click mouse, and the desktop GUI (Graphical User Interface) had not yet been developed.

DOS is more tedious to use than the GUI that Windows provides. It does, however, offer the user more direct access to the inner workings of the PC, which newer releases of Windows seem to be progressively hiding from the user.

A DOS session can be opened while running Windows. Just click Start, then Programs and find the MS-DOS Prompt and click it. When you are done with DOS, type 'exit' at the C:\ prompt to close it.

Every once in a while you may need to open a DOS or Command session, as it is now called, in order to change or check a PC parameter that cannot be changed from Windows.


Mac is the operating system that runs on Macintosh computers from Apple Inc. Many people who use computers for graphics development, like the features in this OS.

In the late 1980s the Wintel (Windows/Intel) combination of software/hardware used on the PC took off because the architecture was open. This encouraged third parties to develop software and special purpose Add-on cards for the PC that enabled further extensions and enhancements to the PC..

Apple took the closed architecture approach and no one could get specifications necessary to develop third party boards for it. The end result is that no one could develop anything for the Mac. This held back the growth and acceptance of the Mac, and allowed the PC to gain tremendous market share.

Over time the inertia of the Wintel based PC became virtually, for better or worse, unstoppable. Today 9 out of every 10 PCs are Wintel based. In spite of some of the shortcomings of Windows, it along with the Microsoft Office suite, has become the de facto operating platform for PCs worldwide. More application software and support are available for it than any other OS in the world.


UNIX (you-niks) is an operating system that originated at Bell Labs in 1969. It was the first OS written in the popular 'C' programming language. It is not a proprietary operating system owned by a one computer company, and became the first open operating system that could be added to by anyone. UNIX is used primarily in workstations which are typically more powerful machines than PCs.


Solaris (the follow on to SunOS) is a UNIX based system developed by Sun Microsystems for its family of Scalable Processor Architecture-based processors. It can also run on Intel-based processors. Sun's SPARC/Solaris systems were the predominant servers for Web sites as the Internet emerged in the 1990s. Sun says Solaris is available (meaning it seldom crashes), scalable (it can be run on larger processors) and is designed for network computing. Sun advertises its latest version, the Solaris 8 Operating Environment, as the 'the leading UNIX environment' today.


Linux (lih-niks) is a UNIX-like operating system. The kernel (core of the operating system) was developed by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Unlike commercial operating systems, it is free and anyone can download it from the Internet!

Linux is an open source language and anyone can add to it. It is distributed using the Free Software Foundation's 'copyleft' stipulations that mean any modified version that is redistributed must in turn be made freely available.

Some have suggested that Linux may become an open language alternative to the popular desktop OS, Microsoft Windows. It is very popular among users already familiar with UNIX, but has far fewer users than Windows.

As we indicated earlier this operating system can be downloaded for free. Companies like Red Hat and SUsE offer bundled versions of the OS which among other things provides installation software for those who don't want to try doing the download and setup on their own.


Java is a high-level programming language developed by Sun Microsystems originally targeting handheld devices and set-top boxes but later modified to address the rapidly expanding World Wide Web.

Java has a set of features that make it well suited for use on the World Wide Web. Small Java applications called Java applets that perform specific tasks can be downloaded from a Web server and run on your computer by a Java-compatible Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.


Script is another name for a macro or batch file and is basically a list of commands that perform common tasks without user interaction. A script language is a simple programming language with which you can write scripts.

PERL (Practical Extraction and Report Language) is a scripting language especially designed for processing text. Because of it's strong text processing abilities, Perl has become one of the most popular languages for writing CGI scripts.

Applescript is a scripting language developed by Apple Computer that is integrated into the MacOS starting with System 7.5. AppleScripts automate common tasks, yet are powerful enough to automate complex tasks.

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