In Pictures: A visual history of OS desktop environments

A trip down memory lane, tracing major milestones in the evolution of the desktop environment.

Do you ever look at your computer's screen and think, “How on Earth did we get here?” Windows, Mac, GNOME, KDE and Ubuntu's Unity are all born from a common history of desktop environment design stretching back to the 1960's. Let's take a visual voyage from the very beginning right up to the present, looking at the “1.0” releases – those very first versions – of the Desktop Environments and graphical computing platforms that made the biggest impact. (Or, at the very least, that I thought were coolest.)

In the interest of time, we aren't going to hit all of the early graphical systems here. Some very noteworthy systems, such as IBM's GDDM (and plenty of others), have been left out.

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  • Marcelo

    excellent, but.. you´re forgot Atari Operating System (TOS) launched in 1985.

  • Steve Petrov

    I think the Framework Desktop Developed by Aston-Tate, then Borland and later Selections & Functions is worth a mention. It was a DOS based text/graphical GUI which used the desk top metaphore long before MS-Windows. So I think it's historically important. In fact it's still around, can be run in MS Windows and tends to be used by certain specialists and die hard fans:

    BeOS is also worth a mention and had many supporters who kept trying to resurect it. In fact, a visit to the BeOS wiki reveals that several OSes decended from BeOS, some LINUX based and one not, are still being developed. At this point, such OSes would probaby be of interest only to programmers, hobbiests and total geeks who love tinkering with OSes... not that there's anything wrong with that! LOL!