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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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RE: iOS vs OSX
By phoenix on 2017-08-02 03:20:17
Windows Phone is included in the WinCE graph, not the NT one.
Permalink - Score: 2
RE: Some large inacuracies
By phoenix on 2017-08-02 03:25:17
Windows 95 and 98 could be run on other versions of DOS, like DR-DOS, or PC-DOS. I ran then on DR-DOS for awhile at home. Other than using more 32-bit stuff, there wasn't really that much difference between 9x and 3.x.

ME made it impossible to run on other versions of DOS, but MS-DOS most certainly was there (it's how the PC booted, for example).
Permalink - Score: 4
Comment by Drumhellar
By Drumhellar on 2017-08-02 05:02:45
I was going to say something about lumping in Windows 9x with everything from 1.0 to ME, but damn, Windows underwent some massive changes during that process.

Really, 9x should be separate from 3.x. But, then again, Windows 3.x should also be separate from what came before, as well.

It's sort of amazing how much Windows has changed while remaining compatible with previous versions.
Permalink - Score: 2
RE[2]: Some large inacuracies
By Windlord on 2017-08-02 06:33:46
I'm aware that 95 to me had stripped down version of DOS underneath, the difference with the previous one is that the effort required to make these versions to run on a non MS-DOS DOS version was massive (and as of 98Se, impossible) so while it was there, it was merely reduced to a bootstrap mechanism and a subsystem... not a full OS as it was still within 3.11 for example
Permalink - Score: 1
Unix history
By Peter9 on 2017-08-02 07:07:09
This Unix chart has been always fascinating to me.
Permalink - Score: 2
RE[2]: Makes no sense
By Brendan on 2017-08-02 07:21:56

> 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 think this has confused a lot of people.

It should have been "time from first release to now" instead, or called "time in active development" (and not "age"), or possibly combined both (e.g. a line for "first release until now" that is twice as thick during the period of active development).

- Brendan
Permalink - Score: 2
RE[2]: Years are messed up??
By jal_ on 2017-08-02 07:48:27
> Technically the initial release of MS-DOS is just a renamed 86-DOS by Tim Patterson (...) So by that metric DOS in it's unbroken chain would have to be counted from late summer 1980
I don't think 86-DOS was ever publically released.

> until MS-DOS8 (realeased in 16 September 2000) so roughly 20 years, give or take a month or two.
MS-DOS 8 wasn't released as a seperate product, and seperately installable, was it?
Permalink - Score: 2
RE: IOS and Android
By jal_ on 2017-08-02 07:52:09
> Are Android (And more so iOS) even separate operating systems since they rely so much on Linux and Java in the case of Android and BSD and OSX in the case of iOS?
Android is a forked Linux (and iOS a forked BSD), but I think both have changed enough to warrent status as a seperate OS. Java is just a software layer on top, and not integral part of the OS. (Note this is all simplified, no time for the details...)
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RE: Comment by Drumhellar
By jal_ on 2017-08-02 07:53:53
Indeed, and I'd go further: Windows 1 and 2 aren't OS'es at all, just graphical shells around DOS.
Permalink - Score: 2
By kovacm on 2017-08-02 09:10:54
Atari TOS is still in development and it is from 1985. (TOS is based on GEMDOS): http://myaes.lutece.net
Permalink - Score: 2

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