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What is an operating system and what is it for?

The operating system is the basic software of a computer . It is without doubt a fundamental element that allows you to give orders to the computer and for it to recognize them perfectly. Seen in this way, could be said to be a “translator” or “intermediary” between the user and the hardware that makes up the whole computer . Thanks to this you can use each of the components and access all the tools that the device offers you.

In addition, this is the one that allows you to install new programs on your computer to exploit certain functions. Using a computer without an operating system is quite a challenge, since you need to have advanced technical knowledge that you acquire after studying a career. Although it is possible to do so, not everyone has this knowledge, so an OS is needed to make things easier for us .

Each operating system has its own interface from which each of the device’s functions, whether mobile or desktop, can be individually controlled. In a sense, is also a command center from which the user can interact directly with the machine .

History and evolution of operating systems

To understand the origin and evolution of the Operating Systems , you should know that the first computers that were created did not have anything like an operating system. The programs were installed from the BIOS and had full control of the hardware they needed to function, which made them slower and could be run one at a time. This at the time meant that the computers were for the exclusive use of professionals with enough knowledge to operate them .

The concept of the operating system was created by IBM in 1956 , which developed a software that allowed the execution of a program after another one was finished . This did not change things much and simply made the work a little easier for those who used computers at the time, who were the same professionals as always. However, it would be the seed that would allow the huge tree we know today to grow.

In the 60’s more advanced concepts such as multitasking, multiprocessor or real-time systems begin to be handled. With them UNIX is born , which would be the first operating system that allowed to control more than one process within the computer and that would become the canvas on which the modern OS we know today would be developed.


With the birth of UNIX, the C programming language also appears, which was developed exclusively to change the source code of this file system. This would allow the creation of more user-friendly programs, which in turn would create the concept of “personal computer” as now an average person with some computer knowledge could operate a computer.

By the 1980s, the first versions of operating systems such as MacOS, Windows and MS-DOS were born . By the 90’s Linux was born and with all of them computers would become as everyday equipment as TV or radio , the processing power of these depended on the microprocessor . Today, there are systems that are so complex that, combined with the Internet, they would make mobile and desktop devices indispensable to people’s lives.


Operating system functions

The functions of an operating system can be encompassed in one word; management. This is undoubtedly the word that best suits it, since in a way it is a manager of the computer’s resources. Among the most outstanding functions of the OS are the following .

Managing CPU resources

An operating system is responsible for administering and managing CPU resources such as hard disk storage space, RAM memory , ROM memory , processor performance and other components. This ensures that each program uses just what it needs to work and prevents the whole ecosystem from collapsing .

Managing the processes

Each of the programs you start runs a process on the computer. The operating system makes sure that this execution is efficient by using the resources it needs to work properly . In addition, if a process runs incorrectly, it is also responsible for cancelling it so that the error does not affect the operation of the others.

Managing process permissions

The above processes require requesting certain permissions that the operating system manages. Without this function, each program would run freely without limitations with the risk that the functioning of the whole system ecosystem would be affected , as they could use more resources than they need, causing complete chaos.

Managing the files

An operating system is like a huge library in which all the digital files necessary for the operation of the computer are stored, as well as each of the data that we save in it. This way, you can access them easily when you need them .

Types of operating systems

Since the creation of the first operating system, different types of operating systems have been created, which differ mainly in their ability to perform various tasks increasingly quickly. A below we invite you to get to know each of them .

According to task management

One way to classify operational systems is according to the number of tasks they can perform. There are two main types; mono-tasks , which are capable of performing one task at a time, and multi-tasks which can perform several at once, with many of them being in the background.

According to number of users

Again, there are two main types of file systems; single-user , which only allows the programs of one user to be run at a time, and multi-user , which can run the programs of several users at the same time.

According to the management of their resources

There are also two main types: centralised , which allows the resources of a single computer to be used at the same time, and distributed , which allows the resources of several computers to be used at the same time. Systems like UNIX or MS-DOS are centralized , while Windows, Linux or MacOS, are distributed because you can connect and use the resources of several computers at once.

According to response time

Finally, we can classify the operating systems according to their response time. In this sense there are those that are real-time , that respond to every user action at the moment of data entry, and those that are not real-time , that do not have the capacity to do this and require a previous processing time before executing the command, as is the case with UNIX and MS-DOS.

Most used operating systems

Today the concept of OS has become so popular that there are dozens of them for both mobile and desktop devices. However, there are some that stand out above others .



MacOS was one of the first modern operating systems developed. Its first version was based on UNIX code, with some improvements to make it multitask and multiuser. Currently the versions of this OS are among the most powerful in the world , being one of the most user friendly and sought after.



Windows is possibly the world’s best known OS and the one with the most users. Like the previous one, its first version was based on UNIX code, although to be frank it was a copy of the fixes MacOS made for its version at the time. However, was the one that best adapted to the user’s needs since then, which allowed it to position itself above the competition .



Android is the most widely used operating system on mobile devices today, being a reference in the mobile market worldwide. It was bought by Google and since then has only been able to evolve to compete even with desktop OSes such as MacOS or Windows .



iOS is the mobile operating system used on Apple iPhone computers. It is very popular and is characterised by its high priority on the user experience, providing its devices with unique features that no other competing OS has .



Finally there is Linux , which is a less used OS as it has the feature of being open source and editable for further customization. However, to do this you need to have some advanced computer skills to be able to exploit its proposal to the full . Beyond this, it has been used as a basis for the creation of other OSes.

This is all you need to know about operating systems. We hope it will help you enormously and that you can use this knowledge to better understand each of the tutorials we created for you in this category.

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