An operating system (commonly abbreviated to either OS or O/S) is an interface between hardware and user; an OS is responsible for the management and coordination of activities and the sharing of the resources of the computer. The operating system acts as a host for computing applications that are run on the machine. As a host, one of the purposes of an operating system is to handle the details of the operation of the hardware. This relieves application programs from having to manage these details and makes it easier to write applications. Almost all computers (including handheld computers, desktop computers, supercomputers, video game consoles) as well as some robots, domestic appliances (dishwashers, washing machines), and portable media players use an operating system of some type. Some of the oldest models may however use an embedded operating system, that may be contained on a compact disk or other data storage device.
Operating systems offer a number of services to application programs and users. Applications access these services through application programming interfaces (APIs) or system calls. By invoking these interfaces, the application can request a service from the operating system, pass parameters, and receive the results of the operation. Users may also interact with the operating system with some kind of software user interface (UI) like typing commands by using command line interface (CLI) or using a graphical user interface (GUI, commonly pronounced “gooey”). For hand-held and desktop computers, the user interface is generally considered part of the operating system. On large multi-user systems like Unix and Unix-like systems, the user interface is generally implemented as an application program that runs outside the operating system. (Whether the user interface should be included as part of the operating system is a point of contention.)
Common contemporary operating system families include BSD, Darwin (Mac OS X), GNU/Linux, SunOS (Solaris/OpenSolaris), and Windows NT (XP/Vista/7). While servers generally run Unix or some Unix-like operating system, embedded system markets are split amongst several operating systems.
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