When you connect to the Internet or perform computer tasks, many elements of hardware and software are necessary to make all this possible. Each program you run on your computer to complete tasks is considered application software. Software is necessary for hardware to perform the tasks you ask it to do, like print a paper or connect to the Internet. Not only that, software is also responsible for maintenance and performance tasks that you are probably not even aware of. The most basic tasks and functional level software that enables the computer to function and run application software is called system software.
Your operating system (OS) is a core component of your computer’s system software. It is responsible for the look and feel of your computer, how it operates, and how it is compatible with hardware and application software. There are many operating systems created by many companies and function, just like there are hundreds of brands for clothing and food. Although they perform many similar functions, they layout and programming is different among these companies. Most people use Windows OS (like XP, Vista, and the newest one, Windows 7). Although most computers are sold with Windows operating systems, there are actually quite a few OS’s created by dozens of companies. The two most popular OS’s used today are Microsoft’s Windows, and Apple’s Macintosh.
Operating systems are responsible for getting the hardware to do what the user wants. It is also the mediator between the hardware and the system software that runs it, and the application software that needs to run on it. For example, the OS allows you to open a word document (application software) to view on your monitor (hardware).
There are other background tasks your OS handles, like processing input and output, implementing security features, and managing memory. This is a primary reason that operating systems are constantly being upgraded. Every time new technology allows for better processing speed and storage space, etc, for hardware, the software has to be upgraded to keep up and take advantage of the new and improved capacity! Therefore, a new operating system is necessary.
Operating systems are also the interface the users see when they turn on their computer and operate their computer. The layout, options, features, and how the basic computer system is organized is a part of the OS. For example, the way your desktop looks is one of the key elements. On a Windows XP, the start button is a rectangular green button and the taskbar is blue. On a Vista or Windows 7, the start button is a black or dark blue circular button with only the Window’s emblem on it.
Changes to the GUI, or, the graphical user interface (the layout, default colors, buttons, features) is another reason operating systems change over time. Whether it’s a new way to organize or just better colors and features, operating systems often have different layouts than a previous version.
As you can see, your OS is responsible for most of your computer processes. It is also constantly being improved (or at least changed) and upgraded by their designers. These changes are an inevitable part of progress and an undeniable part of technology.