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Operating Systems

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Operating Systems:


The most important program that runs on a computer. Every general-purpose computer must have an operating system to run other programs. 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 disk drives and printers.

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.

Operating systems can be classified as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

    Microsoft Windows:

    It all started years ago, in a galaxy far, far away ........

    Most of you may remember the beginnings, but some of you probably have just read about it. There are many, many different types of operating systems but for my purposes here I will just touch on Microsoft Windows which about 85% + of all of us are running on our computers.

    There was of course, DOS which more or less started it all. One movie that more or less gives background on the start of the computer revolution and DOS that I enjoyed a lot is "Pirates of Silicon Valley". If you ever get a chance to watch it, please do, you should enjoy it.

    After DOS we moved into a GUI interface, one that let the user have a more personable experience. Microsoft started out with the Windows versions:

    Windows 3.1 and then the big upgrade to
    Windows 95 which lead to the next change
    Windows 98 From which grew some upgrades
    Windows 98SE (Second Edition)  and one more "upgrade"
    Windows ME (Millennium) seen as a bridge to a more secure system
    Windows 2000 Professional. This version of Windows is still running on many work place and home desktops after almost 7 years after release.
    Windows XP came out in a couple of flavors, Home and Professional to try and separate the work place and the home user.
    Windows Vista, with it's many flavors, was just released to the public last month, January 2007, about 5 years after XP and after several release promises that were not met. The biggest disappointment for retailers was that is wasn't released for the Christmas 2006 season.

    On the professional side there were the work station and server versions, NT Work Station, NT Server (various versions), Server 2000 (and Advanced Server), and Server 2003. There are many other "server" accessory versions and mail versions, such as Exchange, Proxy, IIS and many more.

    What's next? I guess only the future will tell. But there is a movement to getting away from all of this and doing everything from the Internet. Your only requirement will be a good high speed connection and we are just starting to see that now with Cable and FIOS.  Here is one example: It's a desktop with applications that you customize and can access from any Internet connection, anywhere in the world. Google has also developed some applications that run on the web, an Excel like spreadsheet, a Word document type of application and they will even host a web site for you. Of course Microsoft is leaning that way now too.

    Vista is now a downloadable choice instead of purchasing at a brick and mortar or Internet store. You can even upgrade your version of Vista without going anywhere, just install your choice of system and then go to their upgrade link to get a key to unlock the version of Vista that you want. They are all supposed to be on the one disk, you just need the right key.

    One good link with lots of references: and links to other sites on operating systems.