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How old are operating systems?
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-08-01 23:09:59

Today, it hit me that iOS is already ten years old. I consider iOS a relatively new and fresh operating system, but can we really say that at ten years old? In order to figure that out, I quickly threw together a little graph to visualise the age of both current and deprecated operating systems to get a better look at the age of operating systems.

It counts operating system age in terms of years from initial public release (excluding beta or preview releases) to the last release (in case of deprecated operating systems) or until today (in case of operating systems still in active development). I've included mainly popular, successful, consumer-oriented operating systems, leaving out more server or embedded oriented operating systems (such as UNIX and QNX), which tend to have vastly different needs and development cycles.

As far as the nomenclature goes, Windows 9x includes everything from Windows 1.0 to Windows ME, and Mac OS covers System 1 through Mac OS 9.2.2. Windows CE is currently called Windows Embedded Compact, but its line also includes Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, and Windows PocketPC.

Red indicates the operating system is no longer being developed, whereas green means it's still under active development. The only question mark in this regard is Windows CE; its latest release is Embedded Compact 2013 in 2013, and while I think it's still in development, I'm not entirely sure.

This graph isn't a scientifically accurate, well-researched, quotable piece of information - it takes many shortcuts and brushes several questions aside for brevity's sake. For instance, looking at the last official release doesn't always make sense, such as with Windows Service Packs or Mac OS X point releases, and I haven't even been entirely consistent with these anyway.

On top of that, the graph doesn't take months or weeks into account, and just counts everything in terms of years. Linux shouldn't technically be included at all (since it's just a kernel), and you can conceivably argue that, for instance, Mac OS X is older than its initial release in the form of 10.0 since it's so heavily based on NEXTSTEP. Amiga OS is also a bit of a stretch, since its development pace is slow and has even died down completely on several occasions. You could maybe possibly argue that BeOS is still in active development in the form of Haiku, but I consider Haiku a reimplementation, and not a continuation.

In any event, I originally wasn't planning on doing anything with this, but I figured I might as well publish it here since it's an interesting overview.

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100+ comments
By Alfman on 2017-08-03 14:47:17
Congratulations Thom, your little inconsequential graph is stirring up quite the debate, haha :)

Here's an idea, maybe osnews could make up a more official chart for operating systems, and keep it maintained. It really should be upgraded to a "gantt chart". Maybe osnews members could maintain it?

Also, as other's have already noted, your choice of what to include and exclude seems personally biased, it ought to be more objective. Solaris, although not as popular as windows, it was big on desktop computing especially in industry and academia. Omitting it (and others like it) doesn't do justice to the amount of competition we had in the earlier years.
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Comment by reez
By reez on 2017-08-03 16:15:19
I'd love to have seen the BSDs in there.
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RE[2]: IOS and Android
By BluenoseJake on 2017-08-03 17:26:21
iOS and OS X are not BSDs
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Comment by phoudoin
By phoudoin on 2017-08-03 17:46:05
> You could maybe possibly argue that BeOS is still in
> active development in the form of Haiku, but I
> consider Haiku a reimplementation, and not a continuation.

Either BeOS is dead after 5 years but Haiku is alive since 10+ years, or BeOS is still alive thru Haiku since 20+ years.

I fail to see how it could be both dead and alive as a reimplementation.

Edited 2017-08-03 17:48 UTC
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RE[5]: IOS and Android
By 0brad0 on 2017-08-03 18:36:38
> Don't act stupid comparing rims to kernel.

Then don't make retard level comments in the first place.
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Amiga OS?
By Tuishimi on 2017-08-03 19:08:17
I did not realize the original source base was still under active development or support. I knew of clones and other OS's that were tributes to AmigaOS...
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RE: 100+ comments
By Tuishimi on 2017-08-03 19:08:59
Yes, one thing he has always been good at is stirring up debate.
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Interesting
By mdsama on 2017-08-03 20:55:48
As frequently happens, your pragmatic choices seem to be nitpicked with narrow definitions. You never claimed it's perfect; it's a fascinating survey.

Somehow the old systems seem shorter-lived and the newer ones longer than I'd have intuitively thought. Maybe that's just a matter of how we experience time.
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RISC OS
By argimenes on 2017-08-03 21:14:34
What, no love for RISC OS, released in 1987 and in continuous development in both private and open source up to today? That's a good thirty years! :-)
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RE[5]: Nice idea, but it is too hard to set good criteria ...
By leech on 2017-08-03 21:46:07
Pretty sure there were the two jumps for Mac though, from 68k to PPC to Intel.

I know about Rosetta, but I think there was still a compatibility layer between OS 10 and OS 9, right? And it would have been very similar to AmigaOS4 and OS3.

All I'm saying is if this list feels like it should differentiate between OS 9 and OS 10, it should between OS3 and OS4. Hell, AmigaOS4 is even developed by an entirely different company, so should be split even more so. :P

Amiga OS is of the "I'm not quite dead!" "Oh, shut up, you'll be stone dead in a moment." "I'm getting better.. I think I'll go for a walk now.."
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