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Table of contents
What is Evolution of Operating Systems?
First Generation (1945-1955)
Serial Processing
Second Generation (1955-1965)
Batch System
Third Generation (1965-1980)
Multi-Programmed Batched System
Fourth Generation (1980-Now)
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is evolution of operating system needed?
What are the 4 generations of operating system?
What is the evolution of operating system multiprogramming?
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Evolution of Operating System

Author Nagendra
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An operating system (OS) is a software program that serves as a conduit between computer hardware and the user. It is a piece of software that coordinates the execution of application programs, software resources, and computer hardware. It also aids in the control of software and hardware resources such as file management, memory management, input/output, and a variety of peripheral devices such as a disc drive, printers, and so on. 

Evolution of Operating System

Every computer system must have at least one operating system to run other applications. Browsers, MS Office, Notepad Games, and other applications require an environment to execute and fulfill their functions. This blog explains the evolution of operating systems over the past years.

What is Evolution of Operating Systems?

Operating systems have progressed from slow and expensive systems to today's technology, which has exponentially increased computing power at comparatively modest costs. So let's have a detailed look at the evolution of operating systems.

The operating system can be classified into four generations, as follows:

  • First Generation
  • Second Generation
  • Third Generation
  • Fourth Generation

First Generation (1945-1955)

Serial Processing

The evolution of operating systems began with serial processing. It marks the start of the development of electronic computing systems as alternatives to mechanical computers. Because of the flaws in mechanical computing devices, humans' calculation speed is limited, and they are prone to making mistakes. Because there is no operating system in this generation, the computer system is given instructions that must be carried out immediately.
Programmers were incorporated into hardware components without using an operating system by the 1940s and 1950s. The challenges here are scheduling and setup time. The user logs in for machine time by wasting computational time. Setup time is required when loading the compiler, saving the compiled program, the source program, linking, and buffering. The process is restarted if an intermediate error occurs.

Example: Windows 95 and 98 are examples of serial processing operating systems.

Second Generation (1955-1965)

Batch System

The batched systems marked the second generation in the evolution of operating systems. In the second generation, the batch processing system was implemented, which allows a job or task to be done in a series and then completed sequentially. The computer system in this generation does not have an operating system, although various operating system functionalities are available, such as FMS and IBSYS. It is used to improve computer utilization and application. On cards and tapes, jobs were scheduled and submitted. Then, using Job Control Language, they were successively executed on the monitors. The first computers employed in the batch operation method created a computer batch of jobs that never paused or stopped. The software is written on punch cards and then transferred to the tape's processing unit. When the computer finishes one job, it immediately moves on to the next item on the tape. Despite the fact that it is inconvenient for the users, it is designed to keep the pricey computer as busy as possible by running a leveraged stream of operations. Memory protection prevents the memory space that makes up the monitor from being changed, and the timer prevents the job from monopolizing the system. When the input and output devices are in use, the processor remains idle due to poor CPU utilization. 

Example: MVS Operating System of IBM is an example of a batch processing operating system. 

Third Generation (1965-1980)

Multi-Programmed Batched System

The evolution of operating systems embarks the third generation with multi-programmed batched systems. In the third generation, the operating system was designed to serve numerous users simultaneously. Interactive users can communicate with a computer via an online terminal, making the operating system multi-user and multiprogramming. It is used to execute several jobs that should be kept in the main memory. The processor determines which program to run through job scheduling algorithms.

Example: Windows and IOS are examples of multi-programmed batched operating systems.

Fourth Generation (1980-Now)

The operating system is employed in this age for computer networks where users are aware of the existence of computers connected to one another.

The era of networked computing has already begun, and users are comforted by a Graphical User Interface (GUI), which is an incredibly comfortable graphical computer interface. In the fourth generation, the time-sharing operating system and the Macintosh operating system came into existence.

  1. Time-Sharing Operating System

    The Time-sharing of operating systems had a great impact on the evolution of operating systems. Multiple users can access the system via terminals at the same time, and the processor's time is divided among them. Printing ports were required for programs having a command-line user interface, which required written responses to prompts or written commands. The interaction is scrolled down like a roll of paper. It was previously used to develop batch replacement systems. The user interfaces directly with the computer via printing ports, much like an electric teletype. Few users shared the computer immediately, and each activity was completed in a fraction of a second before moving on to the next. By establishing iterations when they are receiving full attention, the fast server may act on a large number of users' processes at once. Multiple programs use time-sharing systems to apply to the computer system by sharing the system interactively.

    Example: Unix Operating System is an example of a time-sharing OS.
  2. Macintosh Operating System

    It was based on decades of research into graphical operating systems and applications for personal computers. The photo depicts a Sutherland pioneer program sketchpad that was developed in 1960, employing many of the characteristics of today's graphical user interface, but the hardware components cost millions of dollars and took up a room. The initiative on massive computers and hardware improvements made the Macintosh commercially and economically viable after many research gaps. Many research laboratories are still working on research prototypes like sketchpads. It served as the foundation for anticipated products.

    Example: Mac OS X 10.6.8 snow leopard and OS X 10.7.5 Lion are some examples of macintosh OS.

Also see, Difference Between Bit and Byte

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is evolution of operating system needed?

The evolution of operating system is needed to match the user requirements as the technology is advancing rapidly. It is necessary to keep up with the dynamic need of users, improve performance and security, and provide new functionalities.

What are the 4 generations of operating system?

The four generations of operating systems are 1st generation: Batch Processing Systems, 2nd generation: Multiprogramming Batch Systems, 3rd generation: Time-Sharing Systems and 4th generation: Distributed Systems.

What is the evolution of operating system multiprogramming?

Operating system multiprogramming evolved from single-program batch processing (1st generation) to multiprogramming batch systems (2nd generation), allowing concurrent execution of multiple jobs. This trend continued through subsequent generations, enabling time-sharing and distributed systems.


In this article, we have extensively discussed the Evolution of Operating systems. The article explains the Evolution of Operating systems in different generations with their improvements.

Recommended Readings: 

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