Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Operating system design for large personal workstations

Ian David Wilson

203 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted July 1985 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Darwin College.

DOI: 10.48456/tr-83


With the advent of personal computers in the mid 1970s, the design of operating systems has had to change in order to take account of the new machines. Traditional problems such as accounting and protection are no longer relevant, but compactness, efficiency and pertability have all become important issues as the number of these small systems has grown.

Since that time, due to the reductions in the costs of computer components and manufacture, personal workstations have become more common with not only the number of machines having increased, but also their CPU power and memory capacity. The work on software for the new machines has not kept pace with the improvements in hardware design, and this is particularly true in the area of operating systems, where there is a tendency to treat the new machines as small, inferior mainframes.

This thesis investigates the possibility of enhancing work done on the original personal computer operating systems, so that better utilisation of the new machines can be obtained. The work concentrates on two main areas of improvement: the working environment as perceived by the user, and the underlying primitives and algorithms used by the operating system kernel.

The work is illustrated by two case studies, the user environment of the TRIPOS operating system is described, along with a new command line interpreter and command programming language, and a series of techniques to make better use of the available hardware facilities is discussed. The kernel of the TRIPOS operating system is examined critically, particularly with respect to the way that machine resources are used, and finally, a new set of kernel primitives and algorithms is suggested, with reference to an experimental kernel for the real time implementation of network protocol software.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Wilson, Ian David},
  title = 	 {{Operating system design for large personal workstations}},
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-83},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-83}