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Learning Support Page

 to be accessed by students anytime, anywhere:

  • review lesson concepts
  • expand concept knowledge and learn more
  • view illustrations or examples
Lesson Title :
Basic Functions Performed by Computer Operating Systems:
Topic Sentence - Key Thought:
Who IS in Charge Here?
Learning Outcomes:

Quotation to introduce lesson topic
or to generate interest in the topic

The Operating System (OS),
acts as the master controller
for all of the activities
that take place
within a computer system.

Introduce concepts in a paragraph or two:
The operating system is the 'control freak' that controls the operation of the computer itself - initially taking charge of the computer as it has been programmed to do for start-up - then, responding and acting on the wishes of the user. Users interact with the operating system by means of the User Interface that has been designed by the software developers--that is the means of communicating the user's wishes to the operating system to make it do what the user wants.

Sample Concept Illustration -- Functions of Operating Systems

  • Objective 1
  • Objective 2
  • Objective 3
  • Use an analogy to describe a computer's Operating System
  • List and Describe the main functions of an Operating System

Just what does an
Operating System Do?

Operating Systems--OSs
have been compared to
Air Traffic Controllers--ATCs.

One of the recommended texts,
Computer Concepts (5th Ed),
provides the following
comparison table
for the functions performed
by ATCs and OSs:

Functions Performed by:

Air Traffic Controllers
Operating Systems OSs
Clear aircraft for takeoff Launch programs (including application programs - apps) - Load programs into memory - RAM
Monitor planes in the air Monitor programs that are running in memory - RAM

Keep track of airspace and runways (resources)

- Deal with interruptions such as invasions into airspace or ground space

Manage the use of (keep track of) RAM and disk space (computer resources)

- Deal with 'interrupts' - special keys pressed or hardware interrupts that catch the attention of the OS:
CD-Drive set to Auto-Play, press of Windows key, etc.

Keep track of planes on the ground Keep track of programs stored on disks (storage resources)
Queing planes in the air for landing and on the ground for take-off Spooling (queing) input and output of data flows--examples: print job spooling, data buffering in communication flows, etc.
Take care of emergency landings

- Detect equipment failure

- Deal with press of: Ctrl - Alt - Del
'Crash Avoidance' interrupt to call up the
'Task Monitor' (refer to earlier lesson for review) and implement:

'Crash Escape'

The Operating System - always in Memory, always at Work

The operating system is always in memory while the computer is running, running the computer!
It is in charge of all activities on the computer. Even when working in another application, the operating system is always in overall control.

For example, while in another application program, various functions are passed on to be carried out by the operating system:

Next, visit at least the first few of the following internet resources sites to review the main functions of computer operating systems.

Internet Sites to Learn More About Operating Systems

Link to some excellent websites to learn more about Operating Systems:

  • Definitely, link to the System Software lessons under Computer Basics in Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101 - an absolutely outstanding site for basic computer learning. DO complete the four lessons under the System Software heading and then the Quiz.
  • Also, go to the How Stuff Works - How Operating Systems Work site and review the first six subtopics listed on this page to learn more about operating systems.
  • The OSFiles claims it is "the one-stop secret portal for every x86 Operating System!" From the author of The Undocumented PC, it is definitely extensive, with excellent, brief summaries of just about every operating system that would run on Intel x86 series of processors - CPUs. Great site - a must visit to learn about specific OSs.
  • The Webopedia site provides a very extensive list of links that relate to various aspects of operating systems--operating systems terminology.

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