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For Kids: What is an Operating System?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

Windows XP, Mac OSX, Microsoft, and Apple. You have most likely heard of these names before. If you are lucky you might have even heard of IBM or Linux as well. These are all names that you might not now much about. Well that's going to change once you are done reading this little article.

A computer is nothing more than bits of plastic, metal, and a whole lot of processed sand. Yes, sand, like the kind you find in your sandwich after a picnic on the beach. Sand is melted down, processed, and a special element is picked out and saved. This element is known as Silicon. It is the major building block of a computer chip.

So back to the computer. All of the plastic, metal, and other bits must work together. They are members of a complex team. When electricity from the outlet in the wall or a battery is allowed to pass through the parts, the fun part begins. When powered, these parts are wanting to do what they were made to to. Some are in charge of doing math, some send electricity from one place to another, and others convert electricity into light, a computer screen.

Absolute chaos would be created if these parts were allowed to do whatever they please. Something has to step in to make sure everything runs smoothy. This is where the Operating System steps in. Think of it as a team captain or coach or is that doesn't suit you, a band director. The operating system an organizer and manager of all things to ensure that the computer functions properly and it can interact with humans.

So what does this have to do with those names mentioned above? Those are names of famous and popular operating system and the companies that create them. Every single kind of operating system performs a few of the same basics tasks. They allow for programs like Microsoft Word or Firefox to interact with the computer hardware. Operating systems also provide an environment for people to use them. This is commonly known as a desktop or graphical user interface (GUI).

You might be thinking, so if they all do the same thing why are there more than one Operating System?The answer to this is simple. There is more than one kind of car that people use. Each car has a particular style or use. You wouldn't use a sports car to move garbage or a bunch of logs, we have trucks for that. You wouldn't want to show up to a Hollywood premier in a broken down pickup. The same hold true for operating systems. Each one has a specific purpose and style.

Name: Windows XP

How to say it: Windows Ex-Pea

This is one of the most popular operating systems on the planet. Chances are that you are reading this using Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. All of these Windows varieties are used for many different uses. They can be used for gaming, office work, running a business, or even hosting a website. These operating systems have the ability to do a wide variety to different things. Bill Gates and his associates developed the line of Windows Operating systems in the early 1990s.

Name: Mac OSX

How to say it: Mack Oh-es-Ex

The Mac OSX line of operating systems is very similar to Windows. It provides many of the same features of Windows but performs them in a much different way. The main people behind the creation of Mac OSX were two guys named Steve and one named Ron. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne began creating their first computers in a garage. These computers developed over the years into what is the Macbook, Imac, Ipod, and Ipad today.

Name: Linux

How to say it: Lin-icks

Born in 1991, Linux has become increasingly popular over the years. It is interesting because not one single person or company owns Linux. It was born out of the work of thousands of people, all collaborating over the Internet. Linux is also free. Many versions are fully available over the Internet. The uses for Linux are just as diverse as Mac and Windows. Linux can be used for personal desktops and laptops as well as business machines and webpage servers.

Name: OS/400

How to say it: Oh-es Four hundred

This operating system is a serious work machine. Huge corporations rely on the power of OS/400 to crunch numbers and run massive programs that keep businesses running. Many of the casinos in United States use OS/400 to manage the money that passes through their hands. OS/400 was created by IBM, one of the oldest computing companies in the world.

Name: Unix

How to say it: You-nicks

This is one of the oldest operating systems. It is often called the grandfather of all operating systems. Unix It is a serious workhorse and many businesses use this operating system for heavy duty work. Scientific and researchers also use Unix's power to compete complex projects. Linux? Unix? Yes the sound the same for a reason. Linux is heavily based off of Unix.

Operating systems are in charge of a lot of different things. The managed the parts of a computer and allow for us to use them. There are many different kinds of Operating System, each with its own specialized purpose.

So there you have it, a simple exploration of the world's different operating systems. You now know a little more than you did before. You are one step closer to becoming a computer genius.



May 15, 2010 3:05am
I nominate this article to be featured on the main page!
May 16, 2010 11:32am
Really great explanation.
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