Roles of the operating system

Operating system is the single most important software without which your computer cannot function at all. When you turn on your computer the first thing you see on your monitor is the operating system. Only after the operating system starts you are able to perform some operations on your computer.

The role of the operating system is to coordinate all communication between different parts of the computer. It makes sure that all the programs running on your computer are provided equal access to all the resource in the computer. It prevents one program to take control of the whole computer and block other programs.

You can compare the operating system with a government. Just like the role of any government is to make sure that all the people in the country get equal opportunities and there is law to make sure that one citizen does not create problems for other citizens, similarly the operating system provides rules and regulations for all computer programs to operate and tries to provide equal opportunities to all programs.

Major operating systems

There are three main operating systems you will hear about in the computer world

  1. Microsoft Windows
  2. Apple Macintosh
  3. Linux

Out of these three Windows and Macintosh are paid operating systems whereas Linux is a free operating system. All these operating system are equally powerful and are widely used around the world.

Main roles of an operating system

There are 4 main roles played by any operating system in the overall functioning of the computer

1) Process Management

Process management means equal sharing of CPU. Operating systems make sure that all the programs running in the computer get equal access to the CPU so that they can get their data and instructions processed by it. CPU is the most important resource in any computer and in commonly available computers there is only 1 CPU present. A program cannot run with the CPU. So it is important that all programs share the CPU equally and one program does not end up blocking the CPU.

2) Memory Management

Memory management means equal sharing of RAM. Operating systems make sure that all programs running in the computer get equal access to the RAM so that they can bring their data and instructions from the hard disk and keep them in the RAM for the CPU to process them. If one program ends up consuming the entire RAM that other programs will not be able to run at all. Also the operating system has to make sure that one program does not overwrite the data and instructions of another program in the RAM

3) File Management

File management means equal sharing of hard disk. Operating systems make sure that data from one program does not overwrite the data of the other program on the hard disk. When a program has to read or write some data on the hard disk it has to request the operating system to provide it access to the hard disk to complete its operations.

4) Input output management

Input output management means equal sharing of all the external devices among different programs. Operating systems make sure that important input devices like keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner etc are not controlled by one program and are shared among all programs turn by turn.

Multitasking

All modern day operating systems are capable of performing multitasking. By multitasking we mean that more than one program can run at the same time in your computer. For example you can use the internet and listen to songs at the same time. This is possible because the operating system makes sure that all the programs share the resources like CPU, RAM and hard disk equally and one program does not have to wait for another program to end for it to start.
From a programmers view point it is very important to understand the overall functioning of the operating system. The better you understand the operating system and its rules and regulations the better programs you can write.

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