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Definition of Operating System

An Operating System is a software program or set of programs that mediate access between physical devices (such as a keyboard, mouse, monitor, disk drive or network connection) and application programs (such as a word processor, World-Wide Web browser or electronic mail client).

Some characteristics of an Operating System are:

  • Whether multiple programs can run on it simultaneously: multi-tasking
  • Whether it can take advantage of multiple processors: multi-processing
  • Whether multiple users can run programs on it simultaneously: multi-user
  • Whether it can reliably prevent application programs from directly accessing hardware devices: protected
  • Whether it has built-in support for graphics.
  • Whether it has built-in support for networks.

Some popular Operating System's are:

  • Unix: multi-tasking, multi-processing, multi-user, protected, with built-in support for networking but not graphics.
  • Windows NT: multi-tasking, multi-processing, single-user, protected, with built-in support for networking and graphics.
  • Windows 95/98: multi-tasking, multi-processing, single-user, unprotected, with built-in support for networking and graphics.
  • Windows 3.x: single-tasking, single-processing, single-user, unprotected, with built-in support for graphics but not networking.
  • DOS: single-tasking, single-processing, single-user, unprotected with no built-in support for graphics or networking.
  • NetWare: multi-tasking, multi-processing, single-user, unprotected, with built-in support for networking but not graphics.
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