Operating systems

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An operating system is a system programprograma list of instructions written in a programming language that controls and organises the general operation of the computer.

Operating system functions

In any computer, the operating system:

task manager showing processor and memory usage (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/ict/images/task_manager.gif)

Windows Task Manager provides information about programs running on your computer

  • controls the backing store[backing storea computer's primary data store, ie the hard disk ] andperipheralsperipheralsa device that connects to a computer, eg a mouse, keyboard, printer or scannersuch as scanners and printers
  • deals with the transfer of programs in and out of memory
  • organises the use ofmemorymemoryWhere a program or data is stored on a computer. between programs
  • organises processing timeprocessing timethe time it takes for a processor to process an input and generate an output between programs and users
  • maintains security and access rights of users
  • deals with errors and user instructions
  • allows the user to save files to a backing store
  • provides the interface between the user and the computer - for example, WindowsWindowsMicrosoft's branding that precedes the operating systems name, eg Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista etc. VistaWindows Vistaan operating system by Microsoft and Apple OSXApple OSX:an operating system by Apple Computers. For more information, see the User Interfaces Revision Bite.
  • issues simple error messages

In a larger computer such as a main frame the operating system works on the same principles.

Modes of operation

Computers can operate in many different ways requiring different and complex operating systemsoperating systeman interface between hardware, eg a computer, and the user.

Real-time processing

When the computer has to react within a guaranteed time to aninputinputA systems block or component that activates a system. For example, this could be a switch or an LDR. In a manufacturing system in a factory, inputs might include materials, components, labour, research and development., a real-time operating system (RTOS) is used. For example, the engine management system within a car uses a real-time operating system in order…


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