Glossary Entry: Operating System

Quick Definition

The operating system is the software layer that works as a middleman between the computer's hardware and the programs you run. Its purpose is to operate the system, and so it provides various services that will be required by programs in general.

Note that there are several different families of operating systems, and their programs are not compatible with one another. The three most popular families of operating systems are Windows*, Mac* and Linux*. Other operating systems exist, but aren't as commonplace and your average computer user won't actually encounter them.


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