The story that leads to Windows 11

On June 24, 2021, Microsoft announced a new iteration of its hugely popular Windows operating system called Windows 11. Windows 11 will include Android apps that are commonly found on Chromebooks, and the operating system will be installed on new PCs through the 2021 holiday season.

In this article we take a look at 60 years of computer operating systems. An operating system (OS) is software that manages the hardware and software of a computer. It handles memory allocation, scheduling tasks, time sharing, and managing data storage and printing. In addition to computers, operating systems can be found on smartphones, video game consoles, web servers and supercomputers.

Around the mid-1940s, engineers at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, among others, succeeded in building calculating machines. The first used mechanical relays, which were later replaced by vacuum tubes.

These machines were huge and filled entire rooms. They were also very slow compared to today’s computers. All programming was done in machine language, often using plugboards. Programming languages ​​and operating systems were unknown.

The introduction of the transistor changed things. The first computer operating systems appeared in the early 1950s when General Motors Research Laboratories began using punch cards for their IBM 701 mainframe computers. Jobs (ie programs) were executed one at a time, and this was known as single-stream batch processing because both programs and data were transmitted in groups or batches. To do a job, the program was first written on paper and then punched onto cards. These would be fed to the machine.

IBM hard drives Source: IBM /

In the 1960s, operating systems enabled mainframe computers to run multiple jobs simultaneously in their main memory, and do the washing up got introduced. the same time pPeriphery Öoperations ÖNo line (SPOOL) inserted a high-speed device, such as a disk, between the computer and slow-speed devices, such as a printer. Think of films from the 1960s that have rooms full of rotating disks.

In the 1970s, microprocessor technology developed sufficiently to develop minicomputers and desktop computers, and two operating systems dominated – MS-DOS for the IBM PC and other machines that used the Intel 8088 CPU, and Unix that ran on mainframe -Computers were used with Motorola 6899 CPUs.

Unix was created on Bell Labs from AT&T by programmers Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Douglas McIlroy and Joe Ossanna, and it was written in the new programming language, C..


At the age of 13, Bill Gates met fellow student Paul Allen at Seattle’s Lakeside Preparatory School, and soon the two of them were programming one Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-10 minicomputer. The school even asked Gates and Allen to create a class planning system for the school.

Paul Allen and Bill Gates
Paul Allen and Bill Gates Source: Bruce Burgess / Wikimedia Commons

In the fall of 1973, Gates went to Harvard College, where he met Steve Ballmer, who was to be Microsoft’s CEO from 2000 to 2014.

In 1975, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) released its Altair 8800 computer based on Intel Corporation’s 8080 CPU chip. After the computer was on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular electronics Magazine, interest in it decreased.

Altair 8800 home computer
Altair 8800 home computer Source: Swtpc6800 / Wikimedia Commons

Bill Gates wrote to MITS that he was interested in developing a BASIC interpreter for the machine. BASIC was a new high-level programming language, and the MITS president asked Gates and Allen to demonstrate their interpreter code at the MITS offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In November 1975, Gates was on leave from Harvard, and both he and Allen were working on the BASIC interpreter in Albuquerque. They started their company as Microsoft and started hiring their first employees. By 1979 Microsoft had moved to Bellevue, Washington. Then, in July 1980, something wonderful happened.

Bill Gates’ mother, Mary, a respected businesswoman, mentioned Microsoft to then-IBM CEO John Opel, and IBM turned to Microsoft to write a BASIC interpreter for their upcoming IBM PC. As an aside, IBM mentioned to Gates and Allen that their new machine needed an operating system.

IBM PC Source: Rama & Musée Bolo / Wikimedia Commons

Gates also referred IBM to Digital Research (DRI), which made the popular CP / M operating system. However, DRI and IBM could not agree, and Gates and Allen suggested developing a new operating system that would be similar to CP / M.

Microsoft had no operating system on its own, so the company bought one in 1981 License for QDOS (later called 86-DOS), a CP / M-like operating system developed by Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products (SCP). On this basis, Microsoft developed its own operating system, PC-DOS, which they supplied to IBM as PC-DOS for a one-time fee of 50,000 US dollars. Microsoft later became the full owner of 86-DOS.

Crucially, IBM failed to secure the copyright to the new operating system, leaving Microsoft free to sell it to other computer manufacturers who cloned the IBM PC. On these other systems, PC-DOS became known as MS-DOS.

Paul Allen left Microsoft in early 1983 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of lymph cancer. Allen managed to beat cancer at the time, but another attack cost his life in October 2018.

Mac OS
Mac OS Source: Apple Computer / Wikimedia Commons

In 1984, on the Pacific coast of Seattle, another child prodigy, Steve Jobs, developed the groundbreaking Apple Lisa and Macintosh home computers. They contained the Mac OS operating system, the first operating system with a built-in graphical user interface (GUI). In 1986 Apple signed a contract with IBM to develop the OS / 2 operating system.


Seeing which direction the wind was blowing from, Microsoft released Windows 1.0 on November 20, 1985 to compete with Apple’s operating system. Windows 1.0 was essentially an extension of MS-DOS, but it contained elements that are now familiar, including Calculator, Calendar, Card File, Clipboard, Clock, Control Panel, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Terminal, and Write.

Another iteration, Windows 2.03, featured overlapping rather than tiled windows, and that change resulted in Apple filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against Microsoft. That lawsuit was settled in 1993 in favor of Microsoft.

Linux kernel
Linux kernel Source: Attys / Wikimedia Commons

In 1991, the Finnish-American software engineer Linus Torvalds developed a free variant of Unix called Linux, which played an enormous role in computer servers. Not to be outdone, Microsoft released Windows NT as the server operating system in 1993 to rival Linux. To this day, NT serves as the basis for Windows server operating systems.

Windows NT
Windows NT Source: Microsoft / Wikimedia Commons

In 1995 Microsoft released Windows 95, the first Microsoft operating system with an integrated graphical user interface. Tremendously successful, Windows 95 was introduced all over the world. In 1998, Microsoft released Windows 98, another iteration of Windows 95.

Windows 95
Windows 95 Source: Microsoft / Wikimedia Commons

In 2000 Microsoft released Windows 2000, which became very important to enterprise and professional developers. Windows 2000 was developed from a completely different code base than Windows 98.

Windows 2000
Windows 2000 Source: Microsoft / Wikimedia Commons

2001 Windows XP was released by Microsoft. It was an improved version of Windows 2000 and was very successful. On January 30, 2007, Microsoft released a consumer version of Windows Vista that was heavily criticized by both reviewers and customers.

Windows XP
Windows XP Source: thatkitten / Wikimedia Commons

First, Vista only allowed the installation of signed drivers. To do this, developers had to purchase an Authenticode certificate that cost between $ 400 and $ 500 a year, which was out of reach for many small developers.

Windows Vista
Windows Vista Source: раймс / Wikimedia Commons

Security researchers identified numerous bugs in the Vista operating system, such as a buffer overflow bug and an animated cursor bug. The biggest criticism of Vista, however, was that it built digital rights management (DRM) into the operating system.

DRM was primarily introduced in response to license restrictions imposed by the HD-DVD Consortium and the Blu-ray Association, and those restrictions required that all components such as graphics cards that came in contact with their video content had to be certified by Microsoft. Vista users also complained about performance losses and longer boot times.

Windows 7
Windows 7 Source: Giorgosarv18 / Wikimedia Commons

In response to criticism of Vista, Microsoft released Windows 7 on October 22, 2009 with the aim of making it compatible with both applications and hardware. Windows 7 had a redesigned shell with an updated system tray, multi-touch support, and a home network system called HomeGroup.

Windows 8
Windows 8 Source: Giorgosarv18 / Wikimedia Commons

Microsoft released Windows 8 for general availability on October 26, 2012. This has been optimized for touch-based devices such as tablets and all-in-one PCs. The home screen showed large, easy-to-touch tiles and constantly updated information. Windows 8 required a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, which ruled this out for netbooks with screens only 800 x 600 pixels.

The main feature of Windows 8 was integration with cloud services such as Microsoft’s OneDrive, the Windows Store for software, and Xbox Live services. A variant of Windows 8 called Windows RT should be used on devices that use the new ARM architecture chips.

Windows 10
Windows 10 Source: Microsoft / Wikimedia Commons

What Windows 8 lacked was the Start menu, which didn’t go down well with consumers. To fix this, Microsoft released Windows 10 in July 2015, which included a start menu. Windows 10 also included a virtual desktop system and the ability to run Windows Store apps in Windows on the desktop instead of in full screen mode.

Windows loses the title

Windows was the most popular operating system in the world for decades, but in 2014 that title was switched to Android due to the large number of Android smartphones sold. Today Windows 10 runs on PCs, tablets and smartphones. Windows Server 2019 is used on millions of server computers worldwide, and Windows IoT (Internet of Things), formerly known as Windows Embedded, is used on handheld devices and in cars.

Several versions of Windows have died shameful deaths. These include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile, an operating system for cell phones, and Windows Phone, which was only sold to smartphone manufacturers.

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