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Generations of Operating Systems

Last Updated on April 10, 2023 by Prepbytes

In today’s world, we use various types of operating systems on multiple devices. The operating system is nothing but a software program that controls and manages the hardware and software components and resources of the computer. In simple words, the operating system provides an interface between the user and the computer’s hardware. The evolution of the operating system is quite remarkable and each generation of operating systems has its own development, features, and contributions to the modern world we are living in. While moving further in this article we will learn all about each and every generation of operating systems in detail.

What is the Generation of Operating Systems?

We can refer to or divide the time period into generations on the basis of the evolution and historical development of operating systems over time. The operating system is designed by following multiple approaches for the user and some of the approaches are mentioned below:

  • The first strategy entails creating, designing, and implementing an operating system at a single location that is appropriate for a specific kind of machine. With this strategy, the operating system is created specifically for one machine. Therefore, we only consider one machine at a time while determining its requirements before designing the operating system. However, this strategy only works when we are thinking about a single machine. From a larger standpoint, this method won’t be very effective because we want to be able to operate in different systems without having to redesign them.
  • The second method involves creating operating systems that are coded and designed to run on a variety of machines at various locations with a wide range of peripheral systems. It means that regardless of their configuration or machine type, this operating system will be able to run on a class of machines or a variety of machines. Assume that you have a Linux Mint operating system installed on your computer. You might have this operating system on a CD as well.

There are mainly four generations of operating systems. We will discuss all of them in a further section of the blog.

First Generation of Operating Systems: Vacuum Tubes and Plugboards

The first generation of operating systems is considered in the time between 1945 and 1955. There were no digital computers at that time. For calculation purposes, we use a machine known as a calculating engine that works on mechanical relays and the first generation of operating systems replaces those mechanical relays with vacuum tubes. These operating systems were typically batch processing systems that allowed users to submit a batch of jobs that were processed sequentially by the computer without user intervention. The first-generation operating systems were primitive and lacked many of the features that we take for granted today. They had limited memory management capabilities, no multitasking capabilities, and no graphical user interface.

The first generation of operating systems was created to maximize the use of expensive hardware components like disc drives, tape drives, and printers. These operating systems processed massive amounts of data effectively by using batch processing techniques. The computer received the input data in batches, and the output data was also generated in batches. Without the modern level of interactivity, this method allowed the computer to handle several tasks at once.

Second Generation of Operating Systems: Transistors and Batch Systems

The second generation of operating systems is mainly developed to face the issue of multiprogramming because at that time multiprocessing was on the rise. It is considered to be in the time frame between 1955 – 1965. These operating systems were more advanced than their predecessors and introduced time-sharing capabilities, which allowed multiple users to access a computer simultaneously. Time-sharing systems were more interactive than batch-processing systems and allowed users to perform real-time operations. Second-generation operating systems also introduced virtual memory management, which allowed a computer to use more memory than it physically had.

Computers became more responsive and interactive with the advent of virtual memory management and time-sharing systems. The computer could handle more data and applications than before, and users could communicate with it in real time. More modular operating systems of the second generation enable users to add and remove software modules as required.

Third Generation of Operating Systems: Integrated Circuits and Multiprogramming.

They are in the time period between 1965 – 1980. In between this time period, we have two computers and they are a commercial calculator and a scientific calculator. There were many features introduced in the third generation of operating systems like improved memory management, graphical user interfaces, and most important multitasking capabilities. With the introduction of GUI and mouse, computers have become more user-friendly and users can easily access the computers.

Additionally, networking features were added to the third generation of operating systems, enabling connections between computers and resource sharing. With the introduction of multitasking computers have become more efficient and productive as we can perform various operations at the same time. The most used feature of the third generation of operating systems is the introduction of a file system as with the help of this the user can structure their file and store it accordingly.

Fourth Generation of Operating Systems: Personal Computers

The fourth generation of operating systems is the latest generation of operating systems as they were introduced in 1980 and are continuing till now they include personal computers. They are easily available and are within everyone’s reach nowadays. With the introduction of these operating systems, we have introduced many architectures like client-server architecture, etc. With the help of these architectures, the user is able to share the resources with the computers directly. In this generation, multitasking capabilities have increased and computers can run various processes together.
The fourth generation of operating system is created to support distributed computing systems, this also prevents unauthorized access of the user by having various antivirus software installed.

Applications of Operating Systems

There are many applications of operating systems and some of them are mentioned below:

  • They provide a user-friendly interface with the help of this users can easily communicate with different hardware components of the computer.
  • They are also used for device management as they can easily manage the input and output devices like keyboards, mouse, printers, screens, etc.
  • They are very efficient in memory management and they continuously allocate and deallocate the memory to free up the resources for the programs.
  • They provide security to the computer from viruses, or any unauthorized access, as it includes authentication, firewalls, and data encryption.

Operating systems are widely used in today’s world and with the introduction of each generation of operating systems new features, functionalities, and capabilities are added to the previous existing operating system from vacuum tube operating systems we have reached to personal computers and supercomputers. They all provide more user-friendly and accessible software. With the help of different generations of operating systems, we can easily share resources and communicate over a network. Now they are used in the Internet age and are used for advanced networking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the generation of operating systems.

Q1. What are some characteristics of the first generation of operating systems?
Ans: First-generation operating systems were typically batch-processing systems with limited memory management capabilities and no multitasking capabilities.

Q2. What is multitasking?
Ans: Multitasking is the ability of an operating system to run multiple programs or tasks simultaneously.

Q3. What is virtual memory?
Ans: Virtual memory is a technique that allows a computer to use more memory than it physically has by temporarily transferring data from the RAM to the hard disk.

Q4. What is batch processing?
Ans: Batch processing is a technique used by operating systems to process large volumes of data in batches without user intervention.

Q5. What are some examples of client-server architectures?
Ans: Some examples of client-server architectures include web servers, email servers, and database servers.

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