Understanding the Operating System


Each new computer that is brought home from the store has an operating system installed. But what most new computer users do not realize is that without an operating system, that computer would be a simple layer of possibilities. A powered computer that lacks an operating system would show nothing but a set of confusing text messages that describe the computer's boot process. At the end of this process, the computer searches for an operating system and, if it is not found, will tell the user to tell you where it is.

Previous computers did not have an operating system and if you have experience with computers in the early eighties, you will remember that most of them did not even have a hard drive. These old computers started an MS-DOS-like operating system from the drivers stored on a floppy disk, and to use a program, users would remove the boot diskette and then insert a new floppy disk containing the program. The floppy disk not only stored the program (word processor, spreadsheet, etc.), but also stored the drivers that the program needed to communicate with the computer hardware. As you can imagine, the cumbersome process of changing from floppy disk to floppy disk caused the birth of the operating system.

An operating system is a software program that controls how computer hardware (and installed software) works. Manage the activity of each component and then show that activity as a user-friendly interface (GUI). It also keeps track of where things exist on a computer's hard drive. But perhaps the most important thing for end users is that the operating system is responsible for translating commands issued with the keyboard and mouse into binary code (010110101) which can communicate with a set of speakers, printers, scanners, and more.

With an operating system installed on the hard drive of a computer, users no longer need to start a computer with a floppy disk, nor do they need to run programs from a floppy disk. All controllers in a program are stored on the computer and used every time a program is started.

Apple's Macintosh computer was one of the first systems to establish a user-to-hardware relationship through an easy-to-use interface. Nowadays, we have quite a few operating systems. Some of the most popular are Windows Vista, Mac OS X, ZETA, IBM, Unix and Linux. But even so, operating systems have been extended to devices that are not computers, such as game consoles, portable music players and PDAs. Regardless of the device, the installed operating system serves the same purpose in all areas: allow user-to-computer communication.

When you think about upgrading your computer to a new operating system, make sure you have the necessary hardware components. We tried to update one of our machines with Windows 98 to Windows XP, but we were warned that the former might not be compatible with the hardware with XP technology. Apparently, the Windows XP operating system requires components that were not developed when Windows 98 was distributed and, if we have to install Windows XP on this machine, the new operating system will look for hardware that the computer does not have. And that will be an instant recipe for failure.

Also be careful when installing operating systems that are incompatible with existing hardware. The hardware of Macintosh computers is extremely different from the hardware of Windows computers and in no case will a Windows operating system operate on a Macintosh machine

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