I’ve decided the other day that computer operating system names and numbers have lost something since the early eighties.
Back then, Microsoft were producing a thing called ‘DOS’, which stood for ‘Disk Operating System’ and was sensibly issued in successive versions – 1, 2, 3 and so on. I think the last one I saw was around version 6.22.
It was kind of cool. All you got was a blank screen with a command prompt, like c:, but if you knew to then type c:/games/id/doom/doom.exe you could get rid of the command prompt and start running around Mars with a chainsaw.
Apple were basically doing the same numbering with their Macintosh ‘System’, which included a graphical ‘Finder’ interface very similar to the one Xerox was developing a few years before the Mac came out. And like Dos, Mac OS got numerically upgraded through the 1980s and 1990s. The first one I saw was 4, I think.
As any mathematician will tell you, the list of possible integers is pretty much infinite, so this all looked like quite safe ground for an endless supply of improved OS’s – you know, DOS v 386,339,445 and so on.
Unfortunately, around 2000, Mr S. Jobs issued a new Mac OS, which was numerically their tenth, except they called it ‘OS X’. It’s still called ‘OS X’, except it’s many versions later and is also named after famous surfing beaches or very large rocks. I think they ran out of cats or German tanks – I can’t tell which (Leopard, Panther, Tiger, Lion). Anyhow, I gather the latest Apple OS, which is called El Pantalla Blanca de la Muerte or something, is made in a sphincter-shaped building in Cupertino.
Because Apple were style leaders, the net result is that today, the OS that Google wrote for my phone is called ‘Chocolate Thin With Icecream Topping’ or some other dessert-themed moniker. (I wanted Malted Milk, but you can only get that in Rush Munro’s Ice Cream Garden apparently.)
Microsoft are a bit more conventional, sort of. The OS on my computer is called ‘Windows 10’ which is the number that immediately follows on from 8.1, but only if you happen to be in Seattle, and if you look too closely you find it isn’t “10” at all, it’s 1511, build 10586.420 (except by the time you read this, it’ll have changed because these days OS’s are a ‘service’ which means they are never the same two days running.)
Of course, clever names didn’t work too well for Microsoft. My old laptop ran ‘Vista’ (geddit? You see a ‘vista’ through a ‘window’…) which everybody hated, though it worked OK providing I didn’t try to do anything with it. Luckily Microsoft issued a totally different OS about a week later called ‘Seven’, which everybody loved, although funnily enough if you look under the hood you find that both of them were Version 6 client versions of Windows NT. ‘Vista’ was 6 while ‘Seven’ was 6.1, which is a bit of a give-away.
So far I haven’t mentioned LINUX, which comes in a whole lot of stable varieties with names like Red Hat v7.2 on kernel v 3.10.0-327. And if I don’t have a computer running one of these, I probably should.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016