But what is an operating system, what does it do, and where did they come from These issues will be covered by this paper.
The truth is, without an operating system installed all computers would be useless for anything short of being rather large paperweights (Businessline, 2005). The operating system is software installed on the computer that provides the user with a window to work. By accessing the operating system, a user can launch a program and begin working right away (Businessline, 2005). For example, this paper was written using Microsoft Office 2003, a popular software for word processing, on a computer with Microsoft Windows XP installed. Microsoft Windows XP is an example of a "single user multi-tasking" operating system (OS); this operating system allows a single user to open, run, and use several programs simultaneously (Businessline, 2005). However, operating systems were not always as efficient as they are today (Darnay, 2005). Computers have evolved dramatically within just the past ten years.
All operating systems serve the same basic purpose: to control the programs' execution and provide the user with input and output control, data management, resource allocation, and scheduling (Computimes Malaysia, 1999). Every time a person turns on his or her personal computer, the operating system is automatically loaded and performs several diagnostics tests on both internal and external devices that are attached to ensure those devices are all functioning normally (Computimes Malaysia, 1999). Many of the most commonly encountered operating systems include the following: UNIX, Microsoft DOS, Microsoft Windows, IBM Operating System/2, and Linux.
UNIX was created by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (Computime Malaysia, 1999) to be used as an operating system for PDP-7 machines. Developed in 1969, UNIX was aimed to developing a multi-user, multi-task system that would interact with ASCII terminals, used by PDP-7 machines, and would require little memory. Thompson and Ritchie were able to create UNIX by based on each of their experience developing the Multics operating system (similar to GENIE from Berkeley and CTSS from MIT). AT&T Bell Laboratories developed the first version of UNIX writing in an assembly language (Computimes Malaysia, 1999). Though the first five versions of UNIX served as art of an internal research effort at Bell Laboratories, the sixth version of this operating system, Unix Timesharing Sixth Edition V, was widely distributed.
Microsoft DOS, abbreviated MS-DOS, became popular when IBM chose to use MS-DOS for their newly introduced system, the IBM Personal Computer. Primarily a single-user operating system, MS-DOS was created using the Control Program for Microprocessord (CP/M) as its basis (Computimes Malaysia, 1999). MS-DOS was made suitable for use across networks and multi-users when version 3.1 was developed to ensure that business software was able to run in the then new 16-bit IBM Personal Computer environment. With the release of MS-DOS version 3.1 and the advent of 16-bit