What is an Operating System?

Operating SystemsWith Windows XP being retired, many users upgraded to a new computer and/or a new operating system prompting the question: What is an operating system?

The operating system (OS) interacts with the system hardware like the keyboard, mouse, disk, display and memory.  It also interacts with all the applications and passes requests to and from the hardware and the application. This is how the user experience is created. The OS controls all interactions and keeps the computer instructions running in sequence. Some familiar OS examples are Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Chrome and maybe you have even heard of Unix.

Everyone has experienced a slow computer.  The slowness is most often because the computer is trying hard to complete all the requested tasks. The central processing unit (CPU) is the computer’s brain. It has to process requests in order, completing one request before it can move on to the next. Even though you, the user, may not see any action, the CPU is hard at work processing your requests. If you insert additional requests, often from banging on the keyboard, it takes longer for the CPU to catch up.  For users this looks like the computer is frozen.

When users see a frozen screen, it does not mean that the computer is broken.  Users do not directly interact with the OS, their actions are handled through the application.  It is the application that communicates with the OS and the OS that communicates with the hardware.  So if you want to type an email. You type the letters on the keyboard but those keystrokes have to be interpreted by the OS and sent to the application. The process is complicated, but it happens so quickly the we often see immediate results.  We type on the keyboard, it appears on the screen.

OSThe picture shows a basic sequence of how this works. In simple terms, the information gets to the user by going to and from the application.  The application sends information to the OS that is processed and sent back to the application.  The OS uses hardware in its processing by sending and receiving from the keyboard, memory, CPU and disks to name a few.

Operating systems have to be updated to accommodate new hardware and software, fix errors, incompatibilities and vulnerabilities. Also, operating systems are modernized to give them a new look and feel making it easier for the user to perform tasks that manage and upgrade the system.

What to know more about the evolution of the Windows Operating System? Click here.







About Mary

Mary is the CEO of LAN Systems. She is an electrical engineer who feels her greatest strength is the ability to connect with people. LAN Systems provides IT managed services and solutions to growing companies and non-profit organizations. You can contact Mary at mary@lansystems.com.

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