9 operating systems that time forgot

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Matt Lake, waxes nostalgic at Computerworld and remembers 10 operating systems from the halcyon days of yore (that’s right, I said “yore”).

You’re not really supposed to love an operating system. It’s like your car’s hydraulic system, your digestive system or the global financial system. It’s supposed to do its job — and not get in your way while you’re doing yours.

But like your car, your guts and the economy, computers are more complicated than they seem. And so are our feelings about them.

So the article is “10 operating systems”, but look at the end of his list

  • CP/M
  • DOS
  • Mac OS
  • Amiga OS
  • GEOS
  • OS/2
  • NeXTStep
  • BeOS
  • Windows 95
  • X Windows

X Windows?

We know… the X Window System, or X Window for short — or just plain X for shortest — is not actually an operating system. But its creators started out with a manifesto, so for that reason alone, we can’t ignore it.

Ah, ok then. So, how many did you run? I used CP/M, DOS (of course), Mac OS, OS/2, and Windows 95. I’m not counting X Windows, but of course that one too.


  1. […] 9 operating systems that time forgot […]


  1. lol @ X being ‘an OS’ 🙂

    I’ve run all of them bar CP/M and BeOS. The best bit about all this virtualisation tech that’s kicking around is that you can still run many of these today, direct from your desktop!

  2. What about Microsoft BoB???

    (just joking)

  3. Paul – you are banned from the site for that. Just kidding. Not really. Kidding. Maybe. 🙂

  4. OK John – What about the 9 (or 5 even) HPC Operating Systems that time forgot?

  5. Guy Robinson says

    I think there are too many HPC operating systems that time has forgotten, all those unix like ports to transputers for instance that we suffered from in the 80/90s.

    Whatever happened to plan9?

  6. John West says

    Guy and Wayne – let’s start the list. Is UNICOS dead? If so, that’s my contribution.

  7. Several off the top of my head:

    COS (Cray Operating System)
    Unicos and its derivatives – Unicos/MAX, Unicos/mk, Unicos/mp

  8. Guy Robinson says

    In discussions this weekend about this a former colleague reminded me that technically the first OS we had on machines we looked after weren’t Unix, One was VMS and there was an IBM but technocally I don’t think they let us near the operating system, all access was through a ‘text’ based page based windowing system on a VT100.

    I still think we never really explored the idea of a proper distributed OS fully enough. Those multiple head nodes are really just multiple login nodes with a ‘dumb’ load distribution mechamism.

    My addition to the list in the above vein would be HELIos.

  9. And lets not forget the 6809/68000/X86 OS from Microware called OS/9. And yes it came out before Apple’s OS/9, in 1980 if I remember correctly. It was a fantastic UNIX clone that was real time and could run from 2 floppy drives and 64K of ram. NASA used it on some of it’s instruments.