What are the 4 generations of operating system?

In this tutorial, we will learn about the 4 generations of operating system. By IncludeHelp Last updated : May 04, 2023

Operating systems are the most integral part in the journey of a computer aspirant!

From batch operating systems to types of operating systems to multiprocessing operating systems, you will encounter several terms in your operating system learning.

Though, the operating system which we see and work on today is completely different from the operating system that existed years ago.

An operating system has undergone several changes or development with the passage of time.

If you want to know in detail about the evolution of an operating system, you can read this blog where we have discussed several generations of an operating system.

Without any further ado, let's get started!

Operating System - An Overview

Operating system is defined as the collection of software which manages all hardware resources for running all applications. It also serves as the intermediary between your computer's hardware or software.

Any system program that acts as an interface between the computer system and the hardware is known as the operating system. The user would be able to run the program or communicate with that of software applications.

What are the generations of an operating system?

The generations of an operating system basically refer to the historical development or the evolution of that operating system. The general categories which define the generation of an operating system are:

  1. First Generation [ 1951 to 1959] : This is regarded as the earliest generation. In this generation, batch operating systems are basically used
  2. Second Generation [ 1959 to 1965] : This was the generation that supported time-sharing
  3. Third Generation [ 1965 to 1971] : The concept of virtual memory is used in this generation.
  4. Fourth Generation [ 1971 to 1980] : It saw the emergence of PCs and development of your operating system
  5. Fifth Generation [ 1980 to present ] : It includes modern operating systems like Windows, Linux, macOS.

Let's study these generations in detail:

1. First Generation

During world war two, digital computers were not present. In this generation calculating engines were built as they were popularly used. Though they were extremely slow but were later replaced by vacuum tubes.

At this time, programming languages were not present. Most of the problems were solved with the help of numerical calculations. Also, punch cards were introduced in the year 1950 which improved the efficiency of computer systems.  Programs in this case were handled with the help of operators.

Vacuum tubes were developed in the first generation as they were introduced for the better working of computer systems. Because of the machine language, computers of this generation were considered faster. Calculations in terms of milliseconds were done by the computers.

2. Second Generation

The evolution of operating systems was completely different in this case. General computers in this generation were created in the early 1950s.

During this period, transistors came into being and were sold to the customers.  These kinds of machines were called mainframes. After that, batch systems were developed that reduced the overall idle time of a computer system. All jobs were being collected on a tray and were read by the magnetic tapes.

Whenever any batch operating system is loaded , it will read the first job to run it. Though, the output in this case was being written on the second tape.

During this generation, computers also used assembly language irrespective of binary level machine language. Though, the early versions of the high-level languages like COBOL were also introduced in the second generation.

Because of the magnetic core technology, these computers would be able to store all the instructions in terms of memory. But a cooling system was required in case of the second generation. Moreover, the computers of this generation were considered quite high for the customers.

3. Third Generation

This generation of the operating system came around 1965 to 1980. During early days, there were scientific and newly made commercial computers. Though, these computers were defined by IBM and were called System/ 360.

These computers were used as the integrated circuits which showed great performance over the second generation computers. By the end of this generation, the designers were capable enough to perform varied tasks in the single computer.

These operating systems were also known by the name of multiprogramming systems. They played a key role in the development of operating systems. It allows all CPUs to perform different tasks even when any of the CPU is idle.

The third generation computers were considered smaller or compact as compared to the second generation computers. These computers were touted as fast, reliable, more efficient and highly versatile.  These computers were also known to produce less heat as compared to the computers of the previous generations.

Though, the cooling system was also required in the third generation computers which was a major downfall.

4. Fourth Generation

This present day generation of operating systems saw the advent of personal computers. Though, these computers were also similar to that of minicomputers which were developed in the case of the third generation.

Personal computers were considered affordable as it was best useful for the personal use of the individuals. A major factor for the creation of the PC was the birth of infamous Microsoft.

The windows in case of operating systems was developed in the year 1975 with the vision of Bill Gates to take the personal computer to a whole new level. They also introduced MS DOS in the year 1981.

Windows also became one of the largest operating systems which you use in today's technology. Then windows 98 or windows XPwere developed. After that, the advent of new window 7 was also developed by the company.

After Microsoft, the infamous Apple also came in the field of operating systems. Today, most of the popular electronic devices like smartphones and ATM machines are also developed with the help of operating systems.

Wrapping Up

The concepts of operating system, its types, multiprocessing operating system and other forms a vital part of a programmer's learning.

Keep this blog as your mentor to learn in depth about the evolution of operating systems.

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