So what on earth does a computer operating system do?
Wednesday 16 August 1995
In technical terms, the operating system is itself a computer program which runs other programs and looks after the hardware of the machine, such as its central processor, hard disc drive, floppy disk drive, keyboard, screen monitor, CD-Rom, speakers and external connections to networks or telephone lines. If a user wants to run a word-processing program, the operating system finds that program on the hard disc and loads it into the computer's memory. It then runs it, while picking up the input from the keyboard and displaying it on the monitor, and saving any data to the disc drives.
The concept of the Windows operating system, and of the rival Apple's Macintosh computers, is that rather than typing commands to make the system perform a task, you move a pointer (the handheld "mouse") across the screen and click a button on it.
Microsoft dominates the market for operating systems of personal computers: Windows already runs on 100 million PCs worldwide, compared with the 20 million using Apple Macintoshes. And Windows 95 marks a notable advance - though not a revolution - over the current version. "It's like putting new soles, heels and polish on an old pair of shoes," says Lawrence Magid, a US consultant. "It makes the PC look and feel better without disturbing the user's comfort."
With Windows 95, the screen will be less cluttered and easier to use. It should run programs more quickly, and be able to run a number of different programs at once. It will be able to sense when a new piece of hardware, such as a printer or speakers, is attached to the computer. And it will have a link to Microsoft's own online computer service, which will have connections to the Internet, the worldwide network with 30 million users.
Apple Macintosh users say all these are hardly innovations, as they have been available on their systems for years; some refer to Microsoft's new product as "Macintosh 89". But this ignores the market dominance of Windows. A common joke in computer circles is: "How many Microsoft programmers does it take to change a light bulb?" To which the answer is, "None - they just redefine the industry standard as darkness."
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 Right to die: Belgian doctors rule depressed 24-year-old woman has right to end her life
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
Greece debt crisis explainer: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
Greece debt crisis referendum: Greeks want to vote No to austerity – but Yes to Europe
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...
£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...