What is an operating system?
An operating system is the most important software that runs on a computer. It manages the computer’s memory, processes, and all of its software and hardware. It also allows you to communicate with the computer without knowing how to speak the computer’s language. Without an operating system, a computer is useless.
The operating system’s job
Your computer’s operating system (OS) manages all of the software and hardware on the computer. Most of the time, there are many different computer programs running at the same time, and they all need to access your computer’s central processing unit (CPU), memory, and storage. The operating system coordinates all of this to make sure each program gets what it needs.
Types of operating systems
Operating systems usually come preloaded on any computer you buy. Most people use the operating system that comes with their computer, but it’s possible to upgrade or even change operating systems.
The three most common operating systems for personal computers are Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X, and Linux.
Modern operating systems use a graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced gooey). A GUI lets you use your mouse to click icons, buttons, and menus, and everything is clearly displayed on the screen using a combination of graphics and text.
Each operating system’s GUI has a different look and feel, so if you switch to a different operating system it may seem unfamiliar at first. However, modern operating systems are designed to be easy to use, and most of the basic principles are the same.
- Before GUIs, computers had a command-line interface, which meant users had to type every single command to the computer and the computer would only display text.
1. Example Microsoft Windows
Microsoft created the Windows operating system in the mid-1980s. Over the years, there have been many different versions of Windows, but the most recent ones are Windows 8 (released in 2012), Windows 7 (2009), and Windows Vista (2007). Windows comes preloaded on most new PCs, which helps to make it the most popular operating system in the world.
If you’re buying a new computer or are upgrading to a newer version of Windows, you can choose from several different editions of Windows, such as Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. You may need to do some research to decide which edition is right for you.
Visit Microsoft’s Windows page to learn more about this operating system.
Check out our tutorials on Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows XP for more information.
2. Example Linux
Linux (pronounced LINN-ux) is a family of open-source operating systems, which means they can be modified and distributed by anyone around the world. This is different from proprietary software like Windows, which can only be modified by the company that owns it (Microsoft). The advantages of Linux are that it is free, and there are many different distributions—or versions—you can choose from. Each distribution has a different look and feel, and the most popular ones include Ubuntu, Mint, and Fedora.
Linux is named after Linus Torvalds, who created the Linux kernel in 1991. The kernel is the computer code that is the central part of an operating system.
According to StatCounter Global Stats, Linux users account for less than 2% of the operating systems market as of September 2014. However, most servers run Linux because it’s relatively easy to customize.
Operating systems for mobile devices
The operating systems we’ve been talking about were designed to run on desktop or laptop computers. Mobile devices such as phones, tablet computers, and MP3 players are different from desktop and laptop computers, so they run operating systems that are designed specifically for mobile devices. Examples of mobile operating systems include Apple iOS, Windows Phone, and Google Android. In the screenshot below, you can see Apple iOS running on an iPad.
Operating systems for mobile devices generally aren’t as fully featured as those made for desktop and laptop computers, and they aren’t able to run all of the same software. However, you can still do a lot of things with them, like watch movies, browse the Web, manage your calendar, and play games.
Classification of Operating systems
Operating systems are there from the very first computer generation. Operating systems keep evolving over the period of time. Following are few of the important types of operating system which are most commonly used.
Batch operating system
The users of batch operating system do not interact with the computer directly. Each user prepares his job on an off-line device like punch cards and submits it to the computer operator. To speed up processing, jobs with similar needs are batched together and run as a group. Thus, the programmers left their programs with the operator. The operator then sorts programs into batches with similar requirements.
The problems with Batch Systems are following.
- Lack of interaction between the user and job.
- CPU is often idle, because the speeds of the mechanical I/O devices is slower than CPU.
- Difficult to provide the desired priority.
Time-sharing operating systems
Time sharing is a technique which enables many people, located at various terminals, to use a particular computer system at the same time. Time-sharing or multitasking is a logical extension of multiprogramming. Processor’s time which is shared among multiple users simultaneously is termed as time-sharing. The main difference between Multiprogrammed Batch Systems and Time-Sharing Systems is that in case of Multiprogrammed batch systems, objective is to maximize processor use, whereas in Time-Sharing Systems objective is to minimize response time.
Multiple jobs are executed by the CPU by switching between them, but the switches occur so frequently. Thus, the user can receives an immediate response. For example, in a transaction processing, processor execute each user program in a short burst or quantum of computation. That is if n users are present, each user can get time quantum. When the user submits the command, the response time is in few seconds at most.
Operating system uses CPU scheduling and multiprogramming to provide each user with a small portion of a time. Computer systems that were designed primarily as batch systems have been modified to time-sharing systems.
Distributed operating System
Distributed systems use multiple central processors to serve multiple real time application and multiple users. Data processing jobs are distributed among the processors accordingly to which one can perform each job most efficiently.
The processors communicate with one another through various communication lines (such as high-speed buses or telephone lines). These are referred as loosely coupled systems or distributed systems. Processors in a distributed system may vary in size and function. These processors are referred as sites, nodes, computers and so on.
Network operating System
Network Operating System runs on a server and and provides server the capability to manage data, users, groups, security, applications, and other networking functions. The primary purpose of the network operating system is to allow shared file and printer access among multiple computers in a network, typically a local area network (LAN), a private network or to other networks. Examples of network operating systems are Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Windows Server 2008, UNIX, Linux, Mac OS X, Novell NetWare, and BSD.
Real Time operating System
Real time system is defines as a data processing system in which the time interval required to process and respond to inputs is so small that it controls the environment. Real time processing is always on line whereas on line system need not be real time. The time taken by the system to respond to an input and display of required updated information is termed as response time. So in this method response time is very less as compared to the online processing.
Real-time systems are used when there are rigid time requirements on the operation of a processor or the flow of data and real-time systems can be used as a control device in a dedicated application. Real-time operating system has well-defined, fixed time constraints otherwise system will fail.For example Scientific experiments, medical imaging systems, industrial control systems, weapon systems, robots, and home-applicance controllers, Air traffic control system etc.
There are two types of real-time operating systems.
HARD REAL-TIME SYSTEMS
Hard real-time systems guarantee that critical tasks complete on time. In hard real-time systems secondary storage is limited or missing with data stored in ROM. In these systems virtual memory is almost never found.
SOFT REAL-TIME SYSTEMS
Soft real time systems are less restrictive. Critical real-time task gets priority over other tasks and retains the priority until it completes. Soft real-time systems have limited utility than hard real-time systems.For example, Multimedia, virtual reality, Advanced Scientific Projects like undersea exploration and planetary rovers etc.
An operating system performs these services for applications:
- In a multitasking operating system where multiple programs can be running at the same time, the operating system determines which applications should run in what order and how much time should be allowed for each application before giving another application a turn.
- It manages the sharing of internal memory among multiple applications.
- It handles input and output to and from attached hardware devices, such as hard disks, printers, and dial-up ports.
- It sends messages to each application or interactive user (or to a system operator) about the status of operation and any errors that may have occurred.
- It can offload the management of what are called batch jobs (for example, printing) so that the initiating application is freed from this work.
- On computers that can provide parallel processing, an operating system can manage how to divide the program so that it runs on more than one processor at a time.