Operating systems

The operating system (OS) controls all of the different tasks that a computer system carries out:

  • Providing the human computer interface to the user
  • Providing security
  • Keeping track of the filing system and where items are stored in memory
  • Reporting errors
  • Controlling the input and output devices

Drivers for devices

Human Computer Interface

The operating system is responsible for managing user interaction with the HCI. Windows, menus, icons and pointers are key components of the HCI and the operating system ensures that what you see on screen responds to actions that you take when using hardware like the mouse, keyboard or touchscreen.

Controlling Peripherals

Peripherals are hardware devices that are attached to the main computer system. Input and output devices are examples of peripherals. The operating system is responsible for input/output management and ensuring the device driver software is up to date. Managing devices in this way allows peripherals to communicate with the system without issue.

Appropriateness of an OS

Operating systems are not made equal and is important to consider the type of task you wish to complete before thinking about the best operating system to use. For example, high end computer aided design would not be an appropriate task for an operating system that is designed for mobile phone use.

Any electronic device will come equipped with its own individual OS. Different brands of mobile phone will all feature their own unique OS. For example:

  • Android
  • Microsoft Windows
  • iOS
  • Linux

Each different computer system will have different hardware, different registers, different instruction sets, and different memory. The result is that one piece of software designed for one computer system will not always work on another computer system.

Software which works on computer systems, other than those it has been designed for, is known as portable software.

When selecting software, it is important to check the technical guide to ensure it is compatible with the platform that you are using.

  • XBOX games are incompatible (wrong platform) with PlayStation
  • XBOX One games are incompatible with XBOX 360
  • Windows software will not normally work on Apple Mac computer systems