Introduction to Operating Systems

An overview of the fundamental roles of the operating system.
Video Rating: 4 / 5

Definition of Operating System

Definition of Operating System

While an operating system is a central part of your computer system, knowing the definition of an operating system is not integral to knowing how to use one. However, when you do know the definition of an operating system, you can better understand what it is doing inside your computer to make it run and to make using it easier for you.

In its basic form, the definition of an operating system is as follows: a set of computer programs that manage the hardware and software resources of a computer system. We can add to that definition to say that an operating system rationally processes electronic devices in response to approved commands.

At the foundation of all system software, an operating system performs basic tasks such as controlling and allocating memory, prioritizing system requests, controlling input and output devices, facilitating networking, and managing file systems.

Most operating systems have a command line interpreter as a basic user interface, but they may also provide a graphical user interface (GUI) for ease of operation. The operating system forms a platform for other system software and for application software.

At a more involved level, the definition of an operating system gets a little more involved when you explore what the operating system does inside of your computer. Here are some of the most common tasks:

* Process Management – Every program running on a computer is a process. In general, a CPU can only run one process at a time. The operating system will monitor requested processes and execute them in a pre-designed order often switching between them very quickly in a way called multi-tasking.
* Memory Management – The operating system’s memory manager coordinates the various types of memory use by tracking which one is available at any given time. It will also monitor which type of memory can be allocated or de-allocated and how to move data between the memories.
* Disk and File Systems – The way an operating system reads different kinds of file system as well as file storage likes in the way the files are named. Some operating systems read file names as case sensitive, while others disregard this.
* Security – All operating systems come with some type of security already built in. Because access to a computer and its often privileged information should be restricted to only authorized users, this aspect of an operating system might actually be its most important function.
* Networking – In the Internet age, networking capabilities of operating systems are very important. Networking capabilities can be either with an outside computer as in accessing the Internet or computer to computer as in a large mainframe operation. The operating system will coordinate all of this below the surface without the user even being aware it is happening.

The definition of an operating system can be simple or it can be more involved. Either way, knowing how your operating system is running your computer can be a very important part of being a responsible computer user.

Related Networking Software Articles

Computer Operating Systems

Computer Operating Systems

Computer operating systems have evolved over the years to become one of the most integral software components of a computer system. Without the operating system, being able to use a personal computer would be much more difficult. The operating system allows the user to easily and more successfully navigate the computer system without having to know complicated commands and requests.

In the early days of computers, operating systems weren’t part of the overall system configuration. They came about after the super computers had already been invented. Before operating systems, information was input into the computer with punch cards. The system wasn’t very efficient and required knowledge of punch card machines just to get the desired information from the computer.

Then some programmers had a vision. They thought it would be wonderful if everyone could use a computer without having to know about complicated programming language. They began designing the first computer operating systems, and soon found success.

Today, there are many computer operating systems both already developed as well as currently in development. Most of these operating systems are designed solely with the user in mind. They allow computer operators to simply load programs into their computers and then navigate their system with the point of a mouse and the click of a button.

All computer operating systems have certain processes that they perform “behind the scenes” so that the user doesn’t really know that they are happening. This is called multi-tasking and makes it much easier to use a computer without having to manage resources manually. The operating system does it for you!

Your computer operating system will manage your random access memory, your hard disk memory, the scheduling of tasks, and so much more! It will provide a level of security to your computer so that you don’t have to worry about an outside party gaining access to any of the information on your computer. It will also navigate the various programs that are on your computer when you want to open those programs. Just tell the operating system, and it’ll take care of the rest!

The most popular operating systems today are Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X. The technology for most computer operating systems came from these two computer giants and other operating systems have evolved from those. Linux and GNU are two other operating systems that are beginning to take hold in popularity, although they are mainly geared toward the mainframe and network system market.

The computer operating system brought personal computers into our homes and businesses and made it easy for anyone to use a computer. Without the computer operating system, using a computer would remain in the dark ages.