Throwback Thursday: The Evolution of the Operating System

Posted by IAB Australia On July 09, 2014

Digital aficianado and Domain Group Product Director, Damon Pezaro, takes on our digital past with a regular Throwback Thursday column – today, he brings us the evolution of the operating system.

Nowadays, most people identify themselves with one of the major operating systems available. You’re either a Mac or a PC as so wonderfully depicted by the highly successful Apple marketing campaign. Or in more recent times, as these ecosystems have evolved onto the mobile platform, its become a battle between iOS or Android. And make no mistake, it truly is a battle, as the operating system that powers our smartphone and tablet devices is becoming the epicentre of many aspects of our daily lives.

But as most things these days, what has now become ubiquitous was some time ago an evolving technology trying to find a way into our everyday world and the operating systems that we make use of every single day have truly evolved in their own right alongside our own evolving digital needs.

The operating system, or OS as it is commonly known as is defined as being a piece of software that is needed to run the programs on a computer or a mobile device and ultimately get these programs to “talk” to the hardware. And while that may sound a little technical the key take-out is that we would not be able to enjoy the amazing capabilities we take advantage of everyday on our devices without the humble OS.

The emergence of the first OS can be traced back many decades but many credit a key turning point back to 1976 which was only a few years before Apple released its very first version of an OS, which was known as DOS or disk operating system.

MS-DOS followed shortly after in 1981 when we saw IBM launch its PC. This saw a flurry of new and updated versions of the OS released culminated in the rise of the graphical operating systems we are all so familiar with today.

For those of you who may remember using Windows 3.0 or Windows 3.1 in the early 90’s, you’ll perhaps have some nostalgic memories or using applications like paintbrush or “Write” to pen a few thoughts.

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And whilst we saw the rise of the open-source OS through Linux around this time, it was when Microsoft released Windows 95 that the power of software truly grabbed the global audience.

It may seem hard to believe, but people actually queued for days on end to get their hands on a cd-rom version of the Windows 95 to install onto their PC’s. It rivalled what we’ve come to see in recent years with the launch of the first iPhone and iPad versions.

Microsoft went onto release other versions, namely Windows 98 / 2000 and later XP but it was in 2001 when Apple released OS X that the bar was set to a new high.

Today we have the rise of web driven applications such as Chrome OS that is designed to operate with almost entirely web applications. This is a wonderful example of how we have moved from such fixed PC experiences to an always connected environment.

And as we move closer towards a reality where almost everything is connected to the internet, the operating system will again be at the centre of this evolving world, whether it be the smarts in your car or your home, it will be the operating system helping to make the magic happen.

IAB Australia

IAB Australia is the peak trade association for online advertising in Australia. As one of over 43 IAB offices globally and with a rapidly growing membership, the role of the IAB is to support sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising across all platforms in Australia.