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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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Haiku?
By sarreq on 2017-08-02 09:15:10
Shouldn't that be included with Be?
Permalink - Score: 1
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RE: Some large inacuracies
By sarreq on 2017-08-02 09:18:40
technically, 95 through millennium still ran on top of MS-DOS
Permalink - Score: 2
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RE: IOS and Android
By Vanders on 2017-08-02 09:18:50
Let's make a simple rule: if the ABI & API are incompatible, it's a different OS.
Permalink - Score: 3
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RE[2]: Some large inacuracies
By CATs on 2017-08-02 09:37:54
> technically, 95 through millennium still ran on top of MS-DOS
Technically, no, they did not.
Permalink - Score: 0
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BSD?
By Gone fishing on 2017-08-02 09:47:07
Surely the BSDs such as OpenBSD, NetBSD and FreeBSD should be on the graph? these are important, widely used operating system, certainly more than BeOS (which is admittedly very cool).
Permalink - Score: 2
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RE: Oldest
By MikeMe on 2017-08-02 09:53:32
Given that FreeBSD arguably has a direct lineage back to the earliest Unix (it's directly descended from the original *BSD's which were effectively patches to the original Unix), it's not unreasonable to squint a bit and call it 45 (or 47) years old.
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Comment by Sidux
By Sidux on 2017-08-02 10:05:51
In other words fewer and fewer teens will have any clue about other operating systems besides iOs and Android.
Permalink - Score: 2
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RE: Atari
By leech on 2017-08-02 10:08:29
> Atari TOS is still in development and it is from 1985. (TOS is based on GEMDOS): http://myaes.lutece.net

I was going to say that, but is it really? At least from the original Atari TOS. We have EmuTOS + FreeMiNT. Now with FreeMiNT I would agree, that's what became of TOS and is indeed still in active development, with the tooling and build process somewhat recently moved into github.
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RE: Nice idea, but it is too hard to set good criteria ...
By leech on 2017-08-02 10:11:08
> Yet Amiga OS, and many operating systems that were not mentioned, raise red flags. Did the development of Amiga OS ever stop? Are long periods with only minor updates considered active development? I am not terribly familiar with the story of Amiga OS, but what little I know sounds remarkably similar to the story of RISC OS: it was under active development for a time, the operating system switched hands with different parties developing different branches, and there were long periods with very minor updates. The one thing that I do not know about Amiga OS is whether development was halted for periods of time. (In the case of RISC OS, it was.)

I don't know why he lists MacOS X vs MacOS 9, but lumps all of Amiga OS into one thing. It definitely stopped being developed in 1999(I think that's when BB2 was released) for 3.x. 4.x, while supposedly based on the 3.x code, has most everything rewritten for PPC.
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RE[2]: IOS and Android
By dpJudas on 2017-08-02 10:41:24
> Let's make a simple rule: if the ABI & API are incompatible, it's a different OS.
Problem is, this would either make all OS releases a different OS, or it would make Windows 95 and Windows NT the same, depending on how strict you dictate the backwards compatibility.
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