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These ten computer operating systems never made the grade

You’re more likely to find an ATM running on some of these systems than a desktop computer or smartphone.

AS THE BATTLE for smartphone operating-system supremacy rages on between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, it’s worth noting that such power-grabs are as old as modern computing itself.

Have you ever heard of a PC operating system called Amiga? What about Inferno? Arthur? No? Oh.

These were all real operating systems that once tried to compete with Apple and Microsoft. And with the birth of the smartphone, there were several early players attempting to do what modern devices do today.


imageCreated by Commodore in 1985

What happened? Ars Technica put it best themselves when in 2005 they wrote: “The Amiga computer was a machine ahead of its time. When it was released in 1985, its color screen (4096 colors in HAM mode!), four-channel sampled stereo sound, preemptive multitasking GUI, and custom chips to accelerate both sound and graphics made the year-old Macintosh seem antiquated and the PC positively Paleolithic. Steve Jobs was reported to be extremely worried about the Amiga, but fortunately for him and Apple, Commodore had absolutely no idea what they were doing”.


imageCreated by Be Inc. in 1991.

What happened? Apple offered to buy Be Inc. for $125 million in 1995, but CEO Jean-Louis Gassée wanted $200 million. Apple bought Steve Jobs’s NeXT instead, and Palm acquired the company’s assets for $11 million in 2001.


imageCreated by IBM in 1985.

What happened? Microsoft and IBM joined to create OS/2 in 1985, but when Windows 3 became a huge hit, the partnership unraveled in 1990. Though no longer supported by IBM, the operating system still runs on many ATMs today.


imageCreated by Acorn Computers Ltd in 1987.

What happened? Developed in five months, Arthur was supposed to be a short-term scab, but it stuck around until the RISC OS was developed in 1989. That operating system is still in use, but we don’t know anyone who uses it.


imageCreated by Bell Labs in 1996.

What happened? It’s an open-source operating system, so there are versions of it still out there. But they don’t work above the basement floor.



Created by BAE Systems in 1992.

What happened? Valued for their security, this operating system and its successors are still used in military technology.

Palm OS (also known as Garnet OS)


(Image Credit: Flickr/

Created in 1996 by Palm Inc.

What happened? In 2002, Palm spun the OS out as its own company. Innovation pretty much ended there and what was once a very strong pioneering OS for PDAs, couldn’t keep up when it came to the Web and multimedia.

HP’s WebOS is as good as dead.

imageCreated in 2009, owned by Palm and then HP.

What happened? Palm created WebOS as an answer to Apple’s iOS for iPhone. The OS first launched on the Palm Pre smartphone and was considered to be one of the best iPhone alternatives at the time. HP bought Palm (and WebOS) for $1.2 billion in 2010. In 2011, HP attempted to make a smartphone and tablet running WebOS, but they were both duds. HP has all but given up on WebOS and the operating system is now open source.

Nokia replaced Symbian with Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.

image (Image Credit: Flickr/The GameWay)

Created in 1998 and bought by Nokia in 2008.

What happened? Once the most popular mobile OS on the planet, Nokia decided to phase out Symbian in favor of Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. Today, all of Nokia’s flagship devices run Windows Phone 8.

MS-DOS was Microsoft’s first pre-Windows OS


(Image Credit: kleiner_Baum)

Created by Microsoft in 1981.

What happened? If you had an IBM PC in the ’80s and early ’90s, you’re probably familiar with MS-DOS. Microsoft bought an operating system called 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products and turned it into an operating system for the new Intel 8086 PC. It was renamed MS-DOS, and eventually went through eight versions before development stopped in 2000.

Bonus Operating System: Do you remember Microsoft Windows 3.0, released five years before Windows 95?  You can now use it online.

- Nicholas Carlson and Steve Kovach

Read: Firefox smartphone system challenges Android and iOS >

More: Facebook to unveil new ‘home’ on Android screens >

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