In order to look at the operating systems, we must first ask the questions "What is a computer?" and then "What is an operating system?".
In his book A History of Modern Computing, Paul Ceruzzi states that "computers were invented to "compute": to solve "complex mathematical problems," as the dictionary still defines that word. They still do that, but that is not why we are living in an "Information Age." That reflects other things that computers do: store and retrieve data, manage networks of communications, process text, generate and manipulate images and sounds, fly air and space craft, and so on. (Ceruzzi 1)." However, early electronic computers were designed basically to solve equations. The scope of how far computers would reach into our everyday lives was something that was only dreamed about in early science fiction novels.
Our textbook defines an operating system as "a program that manages the computer hardware. It also provides a basis for application programs and acts as an intermediary between a user of a computer and the computer hardware" (Silberschatz 3). However, this definition does not begin to describe how varied an operating system can be. We have operating systems that are as basic as the ones in calculators and other handheld devices, or as complex as the ones used in mainframe computer systems for major multinational companies. Some operating systems are designed for optimum convenience, while others are designed for optimum efficiency.
The earliest computers did not have a true "operating system" and were used mostly for business or scientific purposes. According to Alice Rowe Burks, who wrote Who Invented The Computer?,.
"In the world of business and commerce, the electrically operated punched-card machines had become extremely fast and flexible long before they were finally abandoned, in the 1960s, for electronic devices. These calculators were also adapted, to a limited extent for scientific applications as early as the 1930s.