Purpose of a UNIX Operating System

By David Klecha

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The UNIX operating system was first developed at AT&T's Bell Labs in 1969. It has since evolved to the point that it can be found almost everywhere in a variety of flavors and configurations.


UNIX and other operating systems that use the same basic structure and concepts of the original gained initial popularity in running servers. Relatively lightweight as an operating system, they were nonetheless robust enough to handle complex file serving, management, routing, and other centralized tasks simply and effectively.


In recent years Linux, a UNIX-derived operating system first developed in the 1980s by Linus Torvalds, has started to gain traction as an alternative desktop operating system, especially through the popular and free Ubuntu distribution.

Consumer Products

Since Linux was developed as an "open source" operating system--that is, one whose code is freely available to anyone--makers of consumer products have looked to it as an ideal replacement for expensive commercial or custom-designed operating systems. TiVo, for instance, uses Linux in its popular line of digital video recorders.

Cell Phones

In the same way that Linux provides a low-cost alternative in major consumer devices, it is also a relatively cheap way to provide a robust operating system for cell phones. Google's Android phone operating system, found on the Nexus, Droid, and G1 phones, runs on a modified Linux kernel.


UNIX and UNIX-derived operating systems are also popular in academic fields as a low-cost, powerful alternative to commercial computing solutions.