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     The more processors an operating system runs on, the more variety of choices of vendors and the greater the scale (large to small systems) available. LINUX is the “king” of variety, running on almost every processor made.

     NetBSD will run on practically anything: DEC Alpha, Motorola 68k (Amiga, Atari, Mac, MVME, Sharp, Sun3), PowerPC, Intel, DEC VAX, Acorn RISC, MIPS (Sony NEWS, DECstation), etc. Linux is most popular and will run on a wide range hardware: Sun, Intel, DEC Alpha, PowerPC, PowerMac, etc.” —“Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX”w51

     Note that just because an operating system runs on a particular processor, it does not necessarily mean that it runs on every computer model that uses that processor. The “devil is in the details”. Not all operating systems run well on multiple platforms. As an example, Microsoft ported their Windows NT operating system to several different processors in a highly publicized move to demonstrate their cross-platform capabilities, but then quietly dropped some platforms and has poorly supported any platform other than the Intel Pentium (I won’t get into debates about the criticism that Windows NT doesn’t run well on its main platform either).

    The main advantage of using just one operating system throughout an organization is increased compatibility and increased uniformity. This should (but doesn’t always) reduce training costs, reduce support costs, and increase group productivity.

    In practice, the same operating system does not always work the same on different hardware platforms. Often there is a great variance in the quality of the implementation across different hardware and sometimes different feature sets are available. Also, software written for a particular operating system is not always available on every hardware platform that OS runs on.

     “Most potential customers feel better about running their Windows applications on 100 percent Wintel-compatible machines, even if it means running them slower than they might run on an Alpha, MIPS, or some other platform.

    “As a result, non-Intel platforms fell away as Windows NT progressed, leaving only the Alpha version of Windows NT as an emotionally viable non-Intel platform (though even interest in the Alpha remains limited, despite its superior performance). By promoting cross-platform support, Microsoft was competing with the very concept that led to its widespread success.” —Nicholas Petreley, “The new Unix alters NT’s orbit”, NC Worldw74

    Some organizations thrive on a mixed operating system environment. Each operating system/hardware combination has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. There is no such thing as a universal “best” for all applications.

     A classic example is that many Windows-only organizations make an exception for content creation machines, which are usually Macintoshes.

     Another classic example is high end animation and motion picture special effects, where a combination of Windows/Intel, Apple Macintosh, SGI IRIX/MIPS, Sun Solaris/SPARC, and DEC Alpha machines is common, each doing key parts of the total job.

    In a mixed operating system environment, connectivity becomes extremely important.

    It does not matter if an operating system runs on processors you never intend to use. The most common desktop processors are the Pentium and the PowerPC. The most common high end server processors are the SPARC, Alpha, HP-RISC, and MIPS.


     Operating systems that run on Intel/Cyrix/AMD Pentium: BeOS, BSDi Internet Super Server, FreeBSD, LINUX, NetBSD, NetWare, NeXT, NeXTSTEP, OpenBSD, OpenSTEP, OS/2, Rhapsody, Solaris, Windows 2000, Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition, Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows 98, and Windows 95

    “Unix is now growing rapidly on Intel platforms. And these Intel-based versions of Unix have a remarkable amount of free and commercial software support.” —Nicholas Petreley, “The new Unix alters NT’s orbit”, NC Worldw74

     Operating systems that run on Motorola/IBM PowerPC: AIX, Amiga, BeOS, BSDi Internet Super Server, LINUX, Macintosh OS X, Macintosh OS X Server, Macintosh System 6, 7, 8, and 9, NetBSD, and Rhapsody

     Operating systems that run on Sun SPARC: BSDi Internet Super Server, LINUX, NetBSD, NeXTSTEP, OpenBSD, OpenSTEP, and Solaris

     Operating systems that run on Sun SPARC64 (UltraSPARC): BSDi Internet Super Server, LINUX, NetBSD, and Solaris

     Operating systems that run on DEC Alpha: Digital UNIX, FreeBSD, LINUX, NetBSD, OpenBSD, OpenVMS, and Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition

     Operating systems that run on HP PA-RISC: HP-UX, LINUX, NetBSD, NeXTSTEP, and OpenBSD

     Operating systems that run on SGI or DEC pmax MIPS: IRIX, LINUX, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Pyramid, and ULTRIX

    NB: OpenVMS is an updated version of VMSe53; Solaris is an enhanced version of Sun-OS; Windows NT and Windows 98 are the latest server and desktop versions of Windows, respectively; OpenStep is an updated version of NeXTSTEP, which in turn is an updated version of NeXT; Rhapsody is the first pass on combining NeXT/NeXTSTEP/OpenSTEP with Macintosh; Macintosh OS X Server is Rhapsody 2.0.

note: This table will not display until the entire table has been downloaded to your computer. Please be patient.

operating system Intel
CL-PS7110 HP Focus
Rhapsody yes   yes                      
AIX     yesw67                      
AmigaOS     yese95 68060
BeOS yesw14   yesw14                      
BSDi Internet Server yesw15 80486w15
yesw40   yesw40 yesw40                
Digital UNIX               yes            
FreeBSD yesw16 80486w16
HP-UX       yese105         yes         yese105
IRIX             yes              
LINUX yesw17 80486w17
yesw17 68060w17
yesw17 yese90 yesw17 yesw17 yesw17 yesw17 yesw17 yesw17 yesw17  
Macintosh OS X (ten)     G3                      
Macintosh OS X Server     G3                      
Macintosh System 9     yesw13                      
Macintosh System 8.5 and 8.6     yesw13                      
Macintosh System 8.1     yesw13 68040w13                    
Macintosh System 7.6     yes 68040
Macintosh System 7.5.5     yes 68040
Macintosh System 6.07       68040
MS-DOS   yes                        
NetBSD yesw19 80486
yesw19 yesw19 yesw19 yese113 DEC pmaxw19 yesw19 yesw19 yesw19 yesw19      
NetWare yese16 80486e16
NeXT yes 80486   68030, 68040                    
NeXTSTEP yes 80486   68040 yes       yes          
OpenBSD yesw20 80486w20
  yesw20 yesw20   yesw20 yesw20 yesw20          
OpenSTEP yes 80486   68040 yes                  
OpenVMS               yese53   yese53        
OS/2 yesw23 80486
PC-DOS-2000   yes                        
Pyramid             yese50              
SCO yesw36 80486
Solaris yesw28 486DXw28     yes yes                
Sun-OS         yes yes                
ULTRIX             yese53     yese53        
VMS                   yes        
Windows 2000 Advanced Server yesw50                          
Windows 2000 Server yesw50                          
Windows 2000 Professional yesw50                          
Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition yesw3             yesw3            
Windows NT Server 4.0 yesw6   yese2       yese2 yese2            
Windows 98 yesw9 486DXw9                        
Windows 95 yesw12 yesw12                        
Windows 3.1                            
operating system comparison: hardware
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geek humor

    n, “The parts of a computer system that can be kicked.” —Henri Karrenbeld

    “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1-1/2 tons.” —Popular Mechanics, March, 1949

    “I am Pentium of Borg, Division is futile, You will be Approximated.” —Ananda M. Kar

    “My God! That computer is full of Pentium! It’s a wonder that you haven’t been turned into mutants!” —Roger Ivie

    “Intel: putting the ‘backward’ in ‘backward compatible’.” —Randal L. Schwartz

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    Last Updated: May 1, 2004

    Created: June 4, 1998

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