Chief Functions Of An Operating System.

927 words - 4 pages

The chief function of an operating system, we said, is to manage the resources of a complex computer system. It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. The development of operating systems to their present day form is a good illustration of that. At each stage in this development, bottlenecks were found which prevented using the computer resources to their fullest capacity. The need to eliminate those bottlenecks gave impetus to inventiveness leading to the next step in the history of operating systems.Stages of DevelopmentPreHistoryThe earliest computers did not have software. Their functionality was hardwired. To reprogram the machine required rewiring. These machines, of course, did not have an operating system.User SetUp and BreakdownWith the advent of the stored program machine the day of the von Neumann architecture machines began. But the early machines were costly behemoths, available only to clients with deep pockets.When it was not uncommon to pay $1 million for a computer, those who used these machines for business or research were willing to go to great lengths just to get their "moment in the sun," so to speak. Computers were scheduled around the clock and users had to come in at their scheduled time. In addition to loading their programs, the users had to load (and link, if necessary) any system software, such as compilers and device drivers, needed for their run. And additional work was required to make the machine available for the next user.Operator Controlled MachinesVery soon it became clear that during the rather lengthy setup and breakdown time the very expensive computer was not doing useful work. This waste of resources had to be remedied. A computer operator was put in charge of the machine. Users submitted their programs on punch cards. The operator scheduled job execution, loaded the programs, collected the output and performed any required setup operations. By running jobs with similar system requirements in the same time frame, the setup and breakdown process was streamlined. Jobs could also be arranged by priority, run time and other criteria.Simple Batch SystemsTo further reduce slack time, the amount of time during which the computer did no useful work, the scheduling and loading functions were turned over to a program called the monitor (called a resident monitor, if it stayed in memory at all times). Users submitted short instructions in a cryptic language called JCL (job control language) to aid the monitor in its task. Jobs were grouped together and run in batches. Often a separate computer was used to handle the I/O operations. Debugging for this and other early systems was accomplished by interpreting a core dump, a hexadecimal snapshot of the contents of memory and all registers at the time of program error. Hardware features such as memory protection, timers, privileged instructions and interrupts were added to machines during this...

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