Tech Terms: Operating System

The operating system (OS) is the most important program that runs on a computer. Every general-purpose computer must have an operating system to run other programs and applications. Computer operating systems perform basic tasks, such as recognizing input from the keyboard, sending output to the display screen, keeping track of files and directories on the disk, and controlling peripheral devices such as printers.
Operating System (OS)

For large systems, the operating system has even greater responsibilities and powers. It is like a traffic cop — it makes sure that different programs and users running at the same time do not interfere with each other. The operating system is also responsible for security, ensuring that unauthorized users do not access the system.

Classification of Operating systems

  • Multi-user: Allows two or more users to run programs at the same time. Some operating systems permit hundreds or even thousands of concurrent users.
  • Multiprocessing : Supports running a program on more than one CPU.
  • Multitasking : Allows more than one program to run concurrently.
  • Multithreading : Allows different parts of a single program to run concurrently.
  • Real time: Responds to input instantly. General-purpose operating systems, such as DOS and UNIX, are not real-time.

A Software Platform for Applications
Operating systems provide a software platform on top of which other programs, called application programs, can run. The application programs must be written to run on top of a particular operating system. Your choice of operating system, therefore, determines to a great extent the applications you can run. For PCs, the most popular operating systems are DOS, OS/2, and Windows, but others are available, such as Linux.

Interacting With the Operating System
As a user, you normally interact with the operating system through a set of commands. For example, the DOS operating system contains commands such as COPY and RENAME for copying files and changing the names of files, respectively. The commands are accepted and executed by a part of the operating system called the command processor or command line interpreter. Graphical user interfaces allow you to enter commands by pointing and clicking at objects that appear on the screen.

Popular Operating Systems
The three most popular types of operating systems for personal and business computing include Linux, Windows and Mac.

Linux Operating Systems

  • Linux is a freely distributed open source operating system that runs on a number of hardware platforms. The Linux kernel was developed mainly by Linus Torvalds and it is based on Unix.

Windows Operating Systems

  • Microsoft Windows is a family of operating systems for personal and business computers. Windows dominates the personal computer world, offering a graphical user interface (GUI), virtual memory management, multitasking, and support for many peripheral devices.

Mac Operating Systems

  • Mac OS is the official name of the Apple Macintosh operating system. Mac OS features a graphical user interface (GUI) that utilizes windows, icons, and all applications that run on a Macintosh computer have a similar user interface.
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