An operating system (OS), in its most general sense, is software that allows a user to run other applications on a computing device. While it is possible for a software application to interface directly with hardware, the vast majority of applications are written for an OS, which allows them to take advantage of common libraries and not worry about specific hardware details.
The operating system manages a computer's hardware resources, including:
The OS also provides services to facilitate the efficient execution and management of, and memory allocations for, any additional installed software application programs.
Some operating systems were developed in the 1950s, where computers could only execute one program at a time. Later in the decade, computers included many software programs, sometimes called libraries, which were linked together to create the beginning of today's operating systems.
The OS consists of many components and features. Which features are defined as part of the OS vary with each OS. However, the three most easily defined components are:
Examples for OSs include Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, and Linux.
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