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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[2]: iOS vs OSX
By Bill Shooter of Bul on 2017-08-02 14:25:36
But that makes little sense for newer phone os versions that have the same NT kernel, but lots of sense for the older ones that have the Win CE descendants.
Permalink - Score: 3
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RE[3]: iOS vs OSX
By phoenix on 2017-08-02 14:36:03
He never said it would make perfect sense, and that he took a lot of shortcuts and glossed over a lot of things. :)

Perhaps a better name would be Mobile Windows, to include everything from the phone side of things?
Permalink - Score: 2
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RE[3]: FreeDOS missing
By winter skies on 2017-08-02 14:36:31
Maybe it's a bit convoluted, but actually understandable if you take the time.
Permalink - Score: 2
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RE[3]: FreeDOS missing
By rft183 on 2017-08-02 14:59:55
I understood it just fine. But, just because the OS is still being used does not mean it is still being developed. Thom's chart was only intended to include active development of the OS.
Permalink - Score: 1
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Reimplementations
By JLF65 on 2017-08-02 15:05:15
I'd make reimplementations part of the chart, starting from when they first appeared. For example, AROS (reimplementing AmigaOS) first appeared in 1995, and is worked on today, making it 22 years old. Haiku, ReactOS, and FreeDOS would all be similarly listed.
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RiscOS
By timl on 2017-08-02 15:25:43
I'd like to add RiscOS to the list of pet OSes that could have been included in the chart. Not sure if you could count the whole line from 1.0 to the latest as one OS, but there has been at least some development fairly recently: it was ported to run on the Raspberry Pi.
Permalink - Score: 1
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Low Resolution Chart
By jmck on 2017-08-02 16:13:49
You should consider posting high resolution/DPI images next time.
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RE[3]: IOS and Android
By 0brad0 on 2017-08-02 17:55:22
> Let's make a simple rule: if it has it's own kernel, it's a different OS. If it uses same kernel as something else, it's NOT a different OS.

So if I put Audi rims on my Honda my Honda is now an Audi? Seriously?

Simplifying logic down to retarded.

An OS is more than just a kernel.
Permalink - Score: 3
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Pruposal for Enhancement
By dominik.holler on 2017-08-02 19:24:53
I like the idea of comparing the lifeline of operating systems implementations.
Maybe we could create a collaborative spreadsheet to enter the initial and latest release of operating systems and use this to generate the graph?
Permalink - Score: 1
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RE[5]: Years are messed up??
By judgen on 2017-08-02 20:13:08
Why does it not count? The list does NOT specify criteria that woul disqualify it. I think you are just Adam Cutlering out of your behind.
Permalink - Score: 2

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