Unless there are specific situations which warrant knowing such things, most people don’t care about operating systems. If they play video games, they install Windows and leave it on full-auto. If they are in any shape or form content creators, videographers, photographers or music producers, they install a Mac.

Only the hardcore ones install Linux systems, right? Well, no. Operating systems differ from one another and today’s systems are much closer to each other than they are apart. Here is what you need to know about operating systems and the differences between them.

What is an Operating System?

To understand the differences between the systems, the first thing to understand is what an operating system is. An operating system is a software interface that sits between the user and the hardware and allows the user to use high-level applications to give the hardware commands that it can understand. The operating system translates these commands so that the user can get a desired output for their input, for example double clicking on the Chrome icon opens up the browser.

Different Operating Systems

There are a plethora of operating systems out there, but most of them are based on one of the first operating systems UNIX. UNIX was created in 1969 at Bell Labs by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson. UNIX was one of the go-to operating systems during the 70s and 80s, up to the 90s.

Somewhere in the 80s, changes started happening.


The macOS of today is far from the macOS of yesteryear. Macs were created as a fork of UNIX, a fork being a system that uses some part of the code or the way the parent system works. Today’s macs are completely closed source and proprietary, tied to Apple, as close as they can be. Macs use specific hardware and have always been reserved for Apple devices only, albeit users did install Macs on other PC hardware, making so-called Hackintoshes, which is a blend of Macintosh and hack. 


Linux was created by Linus Torvalds who was angry that Minix, a fork of UNIX, was not available as an open source program and could only be used in universities. He built his own system, Linux, which evolved into a family of operating systems. They are considered UNIX-like, because they don’t contain the original Bell Labs code, but operate in a similar fashion.

Microsoft Windows

The first Windows system was released in 1985, as a GUI version of a version of MS-DOS. Windows came to dominate the market in 1985, owning about 90% share of all desktop operating systems. 

Windows is to this day the most used OS on desktop computers and by a large margin.

Operating systems are layers of code that are used as an interface between the user and the machine. They translate code and help the user communicate his input to the machine without knowing machine code. 

There are a plethora of operating systems but these three are the most widespread ones on the desktop market.