10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

Xerox Alto (released in 1976): At the dawn of the Graphical User Interface (GUI), Xerox led the way. They are credited with the development of the mouse, and the first GUI-driven computer, called the Alto. Although it was still far from a modern GUI OS, it was certainly impressive for 1976. The screen was oriented vertically, a trend we see again in the tablets and smartphones of today.

1973 xerox alto 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

Xerox Star (released in 1981): The Alto spawned additional development, and in the early 80’s, Xerox created the 8010 Star. This was a huge leap forward in GUI development. Shortly after its invention, Xerox abandoned the GUI OS project and turned over most of their research & findings to Apple.

1981 xerox 8010 star 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

Apple Lisa (released in 1983): Building upon the success of the Apple II and adding Xerox’s newly acquired research, Apple created Lisa (named after Steve Jobs illegitimate daughter). This OS would eventually lead to the iconic Macintosh System 1. Despite it’s eminent demise, Lisa made an important contribution to the evolution of the GUI OS… menus.

1983 apple lisa 1 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

Amiga Workbench (released in 1985): After the release of Macintosh in 1984, all the computer manufacturers starting producing GUI operating systems to compete with Apple. Amiga unveiled Workbench (a play on “desktop”) v1.0 in 1985. This OS added splashes of color to the typical monochromatic hues of the time. It continued to evolve throughout the 80’s, 90’s, and even into the 2000’s. In fact, it is still around today under the name AmigaOS.

1985 amiga workbench 1 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

GEM (released in 1985): About the same time Workbench was released, a company named Digital Research Inc. (DRI) released an Apple-like OS known as Graphical Environment Manager (GEM) v1. This operating system found it’s way on the ST-series of computers from Atari and even some IBM PCs. Apple later sued DRI claiming their interface was just too similar to Mac OS. Go figure.

1985 gem 1 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

GEOS 64 (released in 1986): With Apple-esque operating systems popping up everywhere, the Commodore 64 needed a GUI-driven OS to be competitive. Enter the Graphical Environment Operating System (GEOS) from Berkely Softworks. GEOS never had any widespread popularity and really didn’t make any worthwhile contributions.

1986 geos c64 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

OS/2 (released in 1988): In the mid-1980’s, IBM and Microsoft decided to band together and create a new operating system called OS/2. It was released in 1988 and was touted as the OS of the future. Regrettably, it never really caught on. IBM and Microsoft split ways in 1990, but IBM continued to distribute and enhance OS/2. Microsoft put their efforts into developing Windows… the rest is GUI history.

1988 os2 1 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

NeXTSTEP (released in 1989): After Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple, he started his own computer company called NeXT. They set out to build a revolutionary operating system unlike anything else. NeXTSTEP was several years ahead of its time. Amazingly, in this world of smartphones and netbooks… screenshots of 22 year old NeXTSTEP are still impressive. Unfortunately, it never sold well. Apple acquired NeXT in 1996, and NeXTSTEP’s contributions can be seen in Mac OS X.

1989 nextstep 1 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

OS/2 Warp (released in 1994): Despite Microsoft’s refusal to participate, IBM continued to put their faith in OS/2. When version 3 arrived in 1994, they changed the name to OS/2 Warp (distinguishing it from the Microsoft-supported revisions). Version 4 arrived and 1996 and it proved to be the last major release of OS/2. Although OS/2 Warp is defunct, you still find it on banking devices from time to time.

1996 os2 warp 4 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

BeOS (released in 1995): Be Inc. was formed in 1991. They created an operating system called BeOS, and the first developer release (DR1) appeared in 1995. The official preview release (PR1) arrived in 1997, and the first full release (R3) shipped in 1998. Even though it never had any widespread adoption, BeOS contributed a lot to GUI development, and still has followers to this day. One of its best features was the dock. Mac OS X utilizes a similar concept, as do many modern Linux distributions.

1995 beos dr1 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down GUI memory lane. icon smile 10 GUI Operating Systems You (Probably) Forgot About

About the Author

avatar KALE: A geek who works in the IT field and lives in Dallas, TX. He is also a music geek who has played in several local bands. Previous to his IT career, Kale worked as a photojournalist. He brings technical advice and artistic counterpoint to the podcast.