What is an Operating System?

An Operating Systems is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs. -Wikipedia

An operating system provides applications access to hardware devices.

I’m taking Introduction to Operating Systems on Udacity at the moment. In the course they state the three purposes of an OS.

  1. hide hardware complexity
  2. resource management
  3. provide isolation and protection

Various operating systems include Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.

The Udacity course draws parrallels between a store manager and an operating system.

A shop manager

  • directs operational resources
  • enforces working policies
  • mitigates difficulty of complex tasks

The manager does these three things by

  • directing use of employee time/tools etc
  • Enforces safety, cleanup and fairness rules
  • Optimises the shop by deciding on workloads

These features of a manger are very similar to those of an operating system. In fact, the operating system completes these same three goals by the following:

  • OS controls the use of CPU and memory
  • OS limits access to resources. For example the maximum amount of files a process can open
  • OS allows for system calls that make accessing the hardware easy for software applications

Operating systems are one of the most interesting and detailed parts of your computer!