The operating system is a set of programs which control the operation of the computer system. It is responsible for the way the hardware components communicate with each other and for monitoring how the hardware of the system is being utilized. Basically, the operating system provides general command as to how the computer responds to the requests of the user.
The operating system includes software which supplements the user with an operating environment for computer interaction. The user interacts with the operating system environment either via command-line interface or graphical user interface or GUI. In command-line interface, the user is required to type in commands to control the computer, whereas, in GUI, computer interaction is carried out using a mouse to point and click on buttons, icons, applications and menus.
Because computers are varied and there are varied uses for them, the operating systems are also created in a way that there are varied types among them. Below we will take a brief look at some types of operating systems.
Real-Time Operating System is a multi-tasking system that is capable of executing real-time applications. In this system, control is processed immediately from the inputs to affect the outputs right away. Timing is critical. It is for this reason why real-time operating systems are used to control devices in dedicated applications such as industrial control systems like oil-refining, chemical processing and air traffic control systems. They are also used in controlling scientific experiments and nuclear power plants as well as in medical imaging systems.
Multi-User Operating System is used on a network of computers to enable access of many different users on the same data and application programs all at once. This also enables the users to communicate with each other over the network by utilizing one or more protocols. Examples of multiple user operating systems are Linux, UNIX and Windows 2000.
Multi-Tasking Operating System is an operating system that enables the user to run multiple software processes at the same time. This type of operating system is common nowadays. Now, you can run several programs in a RAM at once such as opening a web browser, a word document and an audio CD player at the same time and be able to switch uses between these applications.
Distributed Operating System is an operating system that manages several independent computers and makes them appear like a single computer. Essentially, it distributes computation among several processors. Examples of distributed operating systems are client-server systems and peer-to-peer systems.
Lastly, there is the Embedded Operating System. In this type, the operating system embeds on the system itself. They are designed to operate on small machines and are commonly found in cell phones, washing machines and so on.