Posts tagged "what is operating system"

What Does OS Mean

what is an operating system

In this article I'm going to help you finally make sense of what for most people is one of the most confusing and least understood computer terms around: "operating system", or "OS".

Maybe you’ve found yourself with questions and wonder what OS means,, if so, you’re not alone in asking these questions.

This actually is a fairly simple idea to get when you have it explained the right way, as you'll find by the time you finish reading this computer dictionary article.

First, an OS or operating system, is a type of software.

If you aren't sure what I mean by software, let me explain:

"Software" refers to all of the parts of the computer that you really can't see or handle directly. Software would include things like Microsoft Excel, an email program like Outlook, Windows or the Mac OS, plus all of your own files like specific emails, photos, MP3s, etc.

Here's another way to think about it: hardware is like your brain, a physical part of your body, while software is like your mind or your thoughts -- the non-physical part of yourself.

Software runs on hardware, just like your thoughts "run on" your brain.

Are you getting the idea now? So let's talk about the operating system specifically.

So, let me give a couple of examples:  the two best known OS right now are Windows, and Mac OS X (pronounced "Oh Ess Ten" -- as in the Roman numeral ten).

Windows XP and Windows Vista are a couple versions of Microsoft Windows.  While Mac OS 10.4 (often called "Tiger") and the newer Mac OS 10.5 (a.k.a "Leopard") are a couple different versions of Mac OS X.

OK, so what is an OS?

Think of it this way: when a person is born, they have the instinct to eat, to breathe, and so on, and also the instinct to watch, listen, and absorb everything going on around them.

as the years go by, a young child learns to talk and walk by watching others, and as they get older, they also learn more basic skills like reading and writing, hand-eye coordination, etc.

So in other words, they gradually transition from being able to do not a lot except eat, sleep, and fill diapers, to physical and mental maturity where they have all the basic skills they need to go on to more specialized skills like learning to drive, playing a sport like football, writing a paper for a class, working a job -- you get the idea.

In a lot of ways, when you boot up your PC, it's just like a newborn baby, only having a few basic "instincts."

The computer has the ability to power on, and show a picture on the monitor, but not a lot more.

The only other thing it can do is check the hard drive, and if it finds an OS there, the computer knows to start running the OS.

This is called "booting", which is what happens between when you turn the computer on, and when you can actually start using it.

So in other words, it's just like when a child is born and grows up: the operating system has the "life experiences" and lessons that give a "child" all the basic skills like walking, talking, reading, writing, etc., that allow everything else to hapen.

So it's kind oflike your PC is "born" and "grows up" in the space of 30 seconds to a minute or so (sometimes longer for some computers) that it takes to "boot" the operating system.

In other words, the OS is like those underlying skills we all have and learned as we grew up. More precisely, it's the software on the computer that creates the desktop, the icons on it, moves the little mouse pointer around on the screen when you move your mouse around,lets you work with files, lets you type, etc..

Without the operating system, you couldn't do anything with your computer but push the power button and see an error message like "non system disk or disk error" on a Microsoft Windows computer, or a flashing question mark on one of Apple's Macintosh PCs.

So even though lots of people don't really understand what an OS is, or what it's for, no-one could use a computer without it.

Finally get it?

Posted by stevenlocke - July 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Categories: Technology   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,