Couldn't find much online on how an interactive system is different from a time-sharing system, or the different traits of both.

My understanding of a time-sharing system is many people at terminals being able to use the system at the same time, and the CPU's aim is to maximise response time not CPU time (unlike a multiprogrammed batch system). The switches between jobs are very frequent, and users get immediate responses, when for example submitting interrupts via keyboard inputs. There is very little CPU idle time, duplication of software etc, but it is less reliable, there might be lower security and integrity, and potentially bad data communication. An example would be a chat messaging client or system.


Time sharing is a system of multi-tasking designed to allow multiple users to use a single machine at the same time.
A time sharing operating system is one that supports multi-tasking and multi-user.
In a time-sharing system the user typically interacts with the operating system through a secondary machine called a terminal.

In an interactive operating system there is typically only one user on the system that has full control over the system.

Because of the environment in which time-sharing machines are used (large cooperations and banks) security and separation between users is a prime concern.

Interactive computing originates from the hobby and personal computing revolution. Because there is only a single user security was initially not a concern.

From these starting points the lines have blurred.
First single user systems gained multi-tasking and then multi-user concepts were copied over from time-sharing systems into the interactive OS'es.

Meanwhile the security and performance of time sharing systems have also improved.


Your understanding is quite accurate. The main concern on time sharing systems is that the system appear responsive to interactive users.

I am not aware of any difference between the meaning of two terms in the context of operating systems. 'Interactive' just connotes to a property of an OS.

  • $\begingroup$ Interactive and time sharing are two totally different concepts. Your answer implies they are one and the same thing. $\endgroup$ – Johan May 9 '16 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't call them completely different concepts. $\endgroup$ – k4rtik May 9 '16 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ A time-sharing system is also an interactive system (one can argue interactivity for multiple users is why they were designed in the first place). IMHO concept of interactivity in OS context only applies when talking about interactive vs batch-processed computing. $\endgroup$ – k4rtik May 9 '16 at 19:00

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