How Many Operating Systems Can You Name?

by James R. Stoup Dec 05, 2005

Get out a piece of paper and a pencil because today we are having a quiz. Are you ready? Good. Ok, there is only one question and you have five minutes to answer. Oh, and no cheating please. Here is your question;

How many operating systems can you name?

Ok stop, your five minutes are up. How did you do? A couple? Well, that isn’t too bad. Check out the answer sheet below to see how you did.

The answers

1. Windows
If you got this one right then congratulations you most likely have a pulse and a few brain cells. Any version of windows counts by the way so if you said DOS (I know, it’s not really Windows but most people don’t make the distinction), 3.1, 9x, Me (shudder), NT, 2000, XP or Vista you get a point. If you didn’t guess Windows then you probably have never scene a computer and thus must be quite mystified that you can read glowing letters on a magic box. Be careful, because as you are reading this last sentence I am stealing your soul and putting it in a little shiny mirror. Oh, too late, you finished reading and I now have your soul. That is what you get for looking at magic glowing boxes. Now be gone before I try and convince you to buy some water front property from a Nigerian banker who made all of his money helping orphans while selling male growth hormones so he could get his college degree online with 0% financing.

2. Macintosh
Well, you are reading this on a site called Apple Matters so I would be kind of worried if you missed this one. So, give yourself another point if you guessed Mac OS Classic, System 7-9.2, OS X or if you said Lisa. Actually, if you said Lisa give yourself a pat on the back and congratulate yourself for knowing your Apple history. If you missed this one chances are good that you are not too adept at using computers. Also you might have also missed the iPod craze as well.

3. Palm
I almost didn’t count this one but decided at the last minute to let it squeak by. If you have ever used a PDA before chances are good you have seen a Palm Pilot. You probably have even played with one in the store. And maybe you even still have one in a desk drawer somewhere. If so, go dig it out, dust it off and put it on eBay. And while you are at it give yourself a point.

4. Linux
If you said Linux or could name any of the distros then you are either a geek or related to one. Redhat, Ubuntu, Knoppix, Slackware, Debian all count and deserve one point. If you just said Linux then you still get the point on a technicality.

Solaris counts. So does AIX, the BSDs or any other Unix variant you can name. So give yourself a point for remembering one of the oldest and most stable operating systems ever made.

If you know your Apple history then you will remember that an ex-Apple employee created the Be Operating System and latter hoped to sell it back to Apple so it could serve as the core of their next generation OS. However BeOS would ultimately not be chosen and, after a few years of languishing, eventually die. However in recent times it has been resurrected, born anew as ZETA. You are quite the technophile if you guessed either of these so give yourself a point as you marvel at the depth of your tech knowledge.

7. NextStep
After leaving Apple Steve Jobs went on to found NEXT, a company that sold its own hardware (Black Box) and its own OS (NextStep). If you are up to date on your Apple history then you already know that when Jobs returned he brought NextStep with him and that it eventually morphed into OS X. Chalk up another point for remembering Steve’s other other other company.

8. OS/2 Warp/eComStation
IBM created OS/2 and hoped that it would compete effectively against Windows. It did not. Racked with many flaws it still has managed to survive in some businesses though it never made its way onto the consumer desktop. Like BeOS it has been revitalized these last few years and given the new name of eComStation. If you remember the old name or the new give yourself a point.

9. Sendla
Now we are getting to the obscure operating systems. If you have ever heard of Sendla then chances are in the top 1% of news-reading geeks and readily deserve your point. If you are one of the 9 people who actually use Sendla then you get two points along with my condolences.

10. Amiga
If you are over 35 and have an attic you might find an Amiga in there if you look closely. If you do find one then please recycle it and use the nickel you get back to buy a piece of gum. Other uses for these machines include door stops, boat anchors and shot gun targets. Give yourself a point for knowing this and a smack in the head if you actually bought one.

How did you fare? Here is the score card:

0 ~ You live in a 4th world country
If you couldn’t even name one operating system chances are you are a native of some small African country and belong to a tribe of nomadic herdsmen.

1-2 ~ Generic Windows User
You either put Windows or Windows and Mac. Either way your experience is quite limited. Noob.

3-5 ~ Well rounded technophile
You probably knew Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux and maybe Amiga. Congrats, you are in the upper echelons of geekdom.

6-8 ~ History buff
If you have gotten this far then you are indeed wise in the ways of the force.

9+ ~ Uber Geek
Your Kung Fu is the best. You might have guessed an OS that wasn’t even on the list. If that is the case then please contact me and enlighten me so that I might add it to the list.

If you put down the name “Singularity” then you most likely nailed every other OS on my list and should be commended greatly. For those of you who don’t know what Singularity is then you will find out Friday because it will be the subject of my next article.

* * * * * UPDATE * * * * *
Due to popular demand (and several emails) I am adding many operating systems. See if you know any of these:

The following were all suggested to me via email by a Mr. Robert Linnemann
OS/360 ~  IBM’s 60’s & 70’s OS
OS/400 for AS/400’s
A/UX ~ Apple’s first stab at UNIX
Xerox ALTO OS ~ The original GUI
Windows CE/Newton OS ~ Embedded OS’s but since I included Palm I had to do these two
JavaOS ~ why not?

CP/M ~ old school indeed, Hywel gets the nod for this one

MVT, MVS, CMS, CICS, Multex, TOPS ~ Since Steve-The-Geek threw all of these up there you can ask him what they mean

VMS, TOS, Plan-9 ~ and xbaz gets the shout out for recomending these

QDOS ~ Quick and Dirty Operating System, need I say more?
Symbian OS ~ I got a couple request for this one so here it is

If I missed any more big ones let me know.


  • And what about CP/M and MP/M? (I was once a programmer on these…seriously old-skoo’)

    Weave had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 5
  • You did not say only list OSs for small computers.  How about MVT, MVS, CMS, CICS, Multex, TOPS, ... Big computers need an OS too.  As little computers get more powerful life is becoming a big circle.  If you read HP’s new guidelines for virtual machines, it is like reading an IBM 360 Principles of Operation manual from the 70s.

    Steve-the-Geek had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Weave,

    After submitting my article I thought about those but as you said they are fairly old. Mid 70’s if I am not mistaken? Anway, you earn the title of “Geezer Programmer” if you actually coded on those things.

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 122
  • Great article!  I had a 5, I said BeOS but was not sure if the response had to be an OS that you actually used.



    J-F had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 9
  • Steve-the-Geek,

    Your Kung Fu is strong my son. . .

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 122
  • VMS, TOS, Plan-9

    xbaz had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 11
  • What was Plan-9? I am afraid I might have missed that one.

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 122
  • Symbian OS!

    James AkaXakA had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 1
  • OK, the question was pretty vague, but I was surprised that so many were missing.

    VMS particularly.  It may be old, and out of fashion, but it’s a great OS, and in daily use.  I’m programming on VMS every single day in my job.

    RSX-11 I can understand not listing,  but not VMS (or OpenVMS).  Not when Amiga, OS/2 and NextStep are listed. 

    How about Q-DOS (Ok, obscure and probably UK only) and TOS (Atari ST, TT & Falcon).  There was also GEM, though that may have run on top of DOS in pre-windows days.

    I’ve also used CP/M, though only at school, when there was only one machine on the whole campus.

    Hywel had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 51
  • This is an Apple site, so where’s Newton OS?

    Actually the Amiga as a whole was very fine for what it was. I remember feeling quite bewildered when I moved to DOS/Win3.11 from it since in many respects it would represent a step backwards. Geez, the frickin’ thing didn’t even have proper on-board sound…

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 371
  • What no EPOC/Symbian?? :(

    mintcake had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 1
  • If you’re going to include Symbian and Palm OS or Amiga, you have to include the TI-OSes for the Texas Instruments graphing calculators (they are upgradeable on the Flash calculators, not totally hardcoded), the operating systems on HP’s graphing calculators, and PedroM, a third-party OS for TI’s M68k calculators.

    CajunLuke had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 5
  • What, no SOS or Apple DOS or Lisa OS? I weap for their loss.

    oldfart had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Uhhh, I actually saw someone using an EPOC machine on the subway the other day, was that close to whipping out the Newton to initiate some classic T-Rex vs. Triceratops action.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 371
  • James, Atari STs were heaps better than Amigas, how could you have possibly left TOS off?

    And who remembers MSX? And all those early OSes that each manufacturer had - Sinclair, Hitatchi,, Amstrad, MicroBee, BBC, etc

    Chris Howard had this to say on Dec 05, 2005 Posts: 1209
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