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10 best alternative operating systems in history

The world left these platforms behind

Operating systems can fill us with love, and in some cases hate. In fact when its comes to your computer's platform, some users get very attached. As the tech community gears up to celebrate Unix's 40th birthday this summer, one thing is clear: People do love operating systems.

They rely on them, get exasperated by them and live with their little foibles. If that's not the basis of a lasting love, I don't know what is.

In more than 30 years of the PC, there's a number of OS's that have fallen by the wayside. However we've rounded up what we think are the 10 most memorable operating systems. Some of them lasted for years. Some of them had remarkably short lives but inspired trends that we are benefiting from to this day. And a few of them ... well, they were just cool for school.

Oh say, can you CP/M?

In the era when The Ramones and Blondie were regulars in the Top 40, our Altairs and Ataris needed something to make programming applications easier. A rogue mind at Digital Research named Gary Kildall developed the Control Program for Microcomputers to do just that - and the era of the microcomputer operating system began.

It's no exaggeration to say that CP/M was there at the beginning of the personal computing revolution. With CP/M to provide a layer of insulation over the processor, independent software developers just concentrated on making programs that worked for their users. Two of our early favourite programs - WordStar and dBase - were developed for CP/M; thanks to the operating system, they could run unaltered on 8080-, 8088- and 8086-based computers.

CP/M also gave us the command line options we came to know and love. The perennial favorite DIR command made its microcomputer debut in CP/M, and so did the eight-character maximum file name plus three-character extension that we lived with for so long.

It's not stretching a point to say that CP/M is the godfather of DOS - the operating system that ran the Apple II and generations of PCs. In fact, it may be understating the case to call it the godfather: DOS could have been CP/M's twin. It used the same APIs and shared many of the same commands.

Only one significant command was different: to copy files, DOS used the COPY command and CP/M used an old DEC minicomputer program name, PIP.

A decade later, look-and-feel lawsuits were won on less evidence than that. Too bad the lawyers back then were not as far ahead of their time as Gary Kildall.


NEXT PAGE: DOS

  1. The world left these platforms behind 
  2. DOS
  3. Mac OS
  4. Adios, Amigas
  5. Golly GEOS
  6. OS/2
  7. NeXT
  8. BeOS
  9. Windows 95
  10. X


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