The OS-tans are an Internet phenomenon that started on Futaba Channel. The OS-tan or simply OS Girls are the personification of several operating systems by various amateur Japanese artists. Although a pure fan creation, the appearance of each OS Girl is generally consistent across artists. The OS Girls are typically depicted as women and usually depicted as sisters of varying ages.
The Japanese suffix -tan (たん) is a child’s mispronunciation of -chan (ちゃん), an informal, intimate, and diminutive honorific suffix for a person used for friends, family, and pets. In this case, the mispronunciation is used intentionally to achieve the contrived cute or charming effect that is commonly associated with its use by young children.
One of the more popular OS-tans, 95-tan is depicted as a traditional lady from the early modern era of Japan. This is much due to her status as an older version of “modern” Windows. She is a gentle-looking brown haired woman in a kimono, with a hair ribbon showing the four Windows colors. The pattern of her kimono is based on the file “hana256.bmp,” which was used as a desktop wallpaper pattern in the Japanese version of Windows. Her costume is a traditional kimono and a hakama of Japan, and she wears thick sandals, geta on her feet. These are women’s college student’s typical clothes as seen in the earliest period during the course of the modernization in Japan (from the Meiji period to the Taisho period), and the cultural background for the comparison of the modernization of Windows to modernization of Japan is seen there.
She is typically depicted as engaged in drinking tea, serving meals or doing other housework. She is also occasionally depicted wielding a katana in an aggressive manner, symbolizing that it was with her generation of operating systems that Microsoft finally achieved full dominance of the personal computer market.
Being an OS designed for small devices, the personification of Windows CE (CE for short) is portrayed as diminutive and fairy-like; complete with gossamer wings and wielding a USB cable wand. Because a modified version of Windows CE was the operating system of the Sega Dreamcast console, there are several illustrations of CE standing upon or around the Dreamcast’s “swirl” logo.
There are two mainstream personifications of Windows NT. The first NT-tan is depicted as a young woman with purple hair and blue eyes. Although usually seen as loving, sweet and motherly, a few artists’ depictions show NT-tan as a bold and sometimes, crazed warrior, shown with a bladed weapon. One such depiction shows her alongside a similarly-armed Windows 95-tan.
The second is Inu-T, a young, blue haired dog-girl who wears a blue dress, and socks and gloves shaped like paws. Whether she was originally meant as an alternative design to the previously mentioned NT-tan is unknown, but now Inu-T is commonly recognized as representing Windows NT 4.0 Workstation.
Yet another NT-tan, Windows NT SP6, was designed by the dōjinshi group Deja vu, but it was considered a bootleg design by Futaba society and not an “official” OS-Tan.
Window 98-tan and 98SE-tan
Many variations exist; however, the most common is a pair of young girls. The First Edition of 98 has a white and blue uniform, a navy blue hair with a clip shaped like “98”, and has a windows logo as part of a necktie. The 98 Second Edition mascot normally has grey-blue hair and a green sailor school uniform with the letters SE on the front.
Two early representations that are also seen are a pair of stick-limbed Pocky boxes with a face and version number drawn in crayon. This is a reference to Vulcan 300, a character from the Zatch Bell! anime series. While both are fairly shy girls, 98SE is seen hiding in her mech-box a lot more often.
Me-tan is the more cutesy personification of the much maligned and infamously unreliable Windows Me Operating System and was the first OS-tan created. She is usually known as Me-tan, but is often called Emui-san. She was created by the one now called “ME-aki”. ME-tan’s appearance rarely varies and is instantly recognizable. She has green hair in long pigtails and wears a maid outfit with an exclamation mark badge on the front modeled after the Windows error icon.
While she is considered to be a hard worker, webcomics often depict her failing at anything she tries to do, often literally crashing and irritating her sisters. When she is not frozen or out of control, she tends to do things showing a lack of common sense or knowledge, such as putting soda into a microwave oven or attempting to kill people by swinging a scallion or crowbar. In spite of, or perhaps due to, her pitiful plight, the clumsy ME-tan is one of the most beloved OS girls.
Windows 2000-tan (2k-tan)
A few variants exist, but the most common is 2k-tan, the personification for Windows 2000 Professional. She is typically drawn as an intelligent, professional, reserved looking woman with short blue hair, glasses, and hairclips that resemble cat ears flanking a small white bonnet or ruffle, similar to maid’s hairclip that shows the windows logo. Her outfit resembles a swimsuit suggesting the Windows logo colors, and she wears a blue long coat. This is thought to reflect the opinion that Windows 2000 is the most stable, dependable, and balanced system.
She often acts like the “older sister” or “dependable woman” among the Windows-tans and is one of the domain controllers for this reason. In addition, because of the greater stability of Win2K compared with WinME (which was released around the same time), 2K-tan is often described as a guardian of ME-tan.
XP-tan, also known as Saseko, is a dark-haired girl with ribbons in her hair and an “XP” hair ornament worn on the left side (infrequently, she is depicted with ornaments on both sides). As Windows XP is criticized for bloating a system and being very pretty without being equally as useful, XP-tan wears tight clothing and has large breasts. Also, as Windows XP uses up large amounts of memory, XP-tan is often seen eating or holding an empty donburi labeled “Memory.”
The variant of XP-tan that represents Windows XP Home is known as Homeko has green hair that she wears in a short ponytail and wears two large XP-shaped hairclips that cover her ears. She is the sister of Saseko and Homeo (the male personification of Window XP Home).
Windows Server 2003-tan
2003 Server is often portrayed as being half-girl, half-fish, with an ethernet hub as a bonnet on her head. Other versions show her as a girl with a short white skirt and a vest-style top with a long tail in the back (usually with a bow) and Windows four-square logo pins in the bow at her neck and on the tail. In some forms, she has a belt made from ethernet cable wrapped around her waist. Saba is a pun: in Japanese, the word for “server” is pronounced “saaba”, while “saba” is the word for mackerel.
Saba-tan is constantly being eaten by cats (As another gag of the fact that she’s a fish), also in one episode, Windows 95 is seen cooking Saba-tan for lunch, she has been gutted, stunned, and placed on a cutting board as 95 is seen with a sharp knife, preparing to chop Saba-tan up and cook her for ME and 2K to eat. It is still unknown how she escaped that situation since she was unconscious while 95 held the knife up ready to chop her up.
Also in the picture of all the OS-tans, she is seen becoming a cats lunch, however she returns in a later comic, indicating that she somehow escaped being eaten for lunch, or the fact that there are many Saba OS-tans in the OS-tan universe.
Longhorn’s most distinguishing characteristic is usually her horn-shaped pigtails (some variants have up to four pigtails). Silver or white hair appears to be the most frequent, although light blue and black are also seen. A common costume design was a white and red sailor fuku and stockings. Since the release of more details about Vista’s interface, her look has changed slightly. A black maid’s outfit is now emerging in popularity (which matches the new default Vista color scheme), as well as a circular Windows logo hair clip, identical to the new Start Menu button in Vista. There also seems to be a more finalized version who has a hair colour similar to that of Vista wallpapers, with a range from light blue, to yellow, to green. She also wears a type of long coat (which only covers her left and right sides) which are transparent to imitate that of the Aero glass effect.
Mac OS-tan was perhaps the first commonly-known and widely-supported Mac-tan during the early days of the OS-tan phenomenon. In early drawings, Mac-tan appears in her standard platinum-white body suit (alluding to the iMac/OSX design motif) but, also with a rainbow-colored apple on her head, a throwback to the classic Macintosh. Some manga strips also featured her battling against Windows 95-tan during the OS-tan Wars, during which time only the classic macs were available.
Personality-wise, Mac OS-tan is short-tempered, and is known to throw memorable fits of insane rage when angered. Aside from her platinum-white bodysuit and apple adornment on her head, another memorable feature is the bomb she usually carries based on the standard Macintosh error dialog. She is frequently shown in pictures and comic strips trying to use these bombs against Windows-tans and other miscellaneous characters that annoy her. When offered appreciation, however, her temper subsides and she becomes relatively friendly, if perhaps a bit direct.
Mac OS9-tan and Mac OS9.1-tan
Mac OS 9 is currently the most common and adored MacOS girl. OS9-tan is the personification for Mac Operating System 9, better known as “Sonata”, named after standard wallpaper for OS 9. Japanese artists frequently refer to her as “Sonata sensei”. She wears a white dress with the Mac face logo on the skirt with a slit up the front that follows the nose/profile line. Unlike MacOS-tan, she is always seen as cheerful, modest and responsible like 2k-tan, much due to the fact that she is the only maid in the Mac group. She is always responsible for taking care of the OSX girls. Her main hobby is art (mostly painting). Also unlike MacOS-tan, she had good relations with the other OS-tans like Windows girls. She is mostly seen hanging out with ME-tan, and like XP-tan, she would oftenly be seen in ecchi situations in the Mac 4koma.
9.1-tan is either represented as looking almost just like Mac OS 9-tan or 9.2-tan but with a ‘9.1’ hairclip or looks like Forte Stollen from “Galaxy Angel”, with the latter possibly being reference to 9.1’s codename of Fortissimo (which is derived from Forte).
Mac OS X-tan
The Mac OS X girl is often portrayed as cat-eared, following with the Apple “wild cat” naming tradition. (Every Mac OS X release has a codename like “Jaguar”, “Panther”, “Tiger”, “Leopard” and so on.)
Originally seen as a bearded penguin (a reference to Tux, the penguin mascot of the kernel program Linux), the more friendly image of a girl with helmet and flippers was chosen as a human alternative. Her helmet usually has horns on it, likely a reference to the GNU operating system whose components usually combine the system programs in Linux systems (hence “GNU/Linux”). The “gear-teeth” on the helmet is a reference to KDE, a common desktop environment used with GNU/Linux. Also, the foot symbol on her shirt is a reference to GNOME, another common desktop environment. She is often seen with a spear that has flags attached representing GRUB (GRand Unified Bootloader: a bootmanager, which is most commonly used on Linux-systems), LILO (the traditional LInux-Loader) and GCC (the GNU Compiler Collection, which includes the C-compiler with which most of the Operating System was written) — rather important applications on every GNU/Linux-system. The helmet and spear most likely reference the high level of attention to security (defensive helmet) and hacking (offensive spear) found in Linux applications.
Linux-tan is said to be either a generic Linux-distribution, or the original Linux which Linus Torvalds uploaded and which improved over the time.