Introduction to Computer Information Systems/System Software

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Systems Software Overview[edit]

Ubuntu 12.04 is an example of a OS

System software can be separated into two different categories, utility programs and operating systems. Operating systems are the foundation of your computer and almost every electronic device. The OS boots up the computer and makes sure everything is operational. The OS is also what runs your cell phone and most of your electronic devices. The OS is, for the most part, the GUI that shows you all of your applications, and without the OS you cannot use the computer. There are many different types of OS’s which are discussed later. Utility programs perform a very specific task, to either enhance or manage your computer. For example your virus protection program, like norton[1], is an example of a utility program along with the install/uninstall program that comes standard with Windows.

Systems Software vs Application Software[edit]

Systems Software[edit]

Systems Software are applications or programs that are designed specifically for running the hardware on a personal computer and are used to maintain a platform for Application Software to be used. This means that systems software is designed to communicate with the internal parts of your computer such as the hard drive, RAM, ROM, cache, microprocessors, etc. so that the user doesn't have to. It contains all of the drivers necessary for this type of communication, and ,in the most simplest sense, it is the interface between the user and the hardware.[2] The Operating System (called the OS for short) on your computer is not only one of the most important systems software on a computer, but is also the most frequently used. It is the software that runs in the background and brings the separate, physical parts of the computer together in order to provide the seamless stream of activity that a user experiences. Some of its responsibilities include the transfer of data between the memory and disks (on your hard drive) as well as providing the information needed to display icons, text, cursors and other visible necessities on the display screen. This display is called the graphical user interface or GUI and is entirely the result of the OS on the computer. This can be compared by viewing the differences between the Ubuntu OS and the Mac Snow Leopard OS. The icons between the two are positioned differently and they look different too. The Mac OS and GUI tends to have a more three dimensional aspect to it where Windows tends to appear more flat. It should also be remembered that the operating system conducts itself independently of both the user and any application software being used. This means that it is not directly dependent on the user or other programs in order to operate. Some other systems software would include Bios and device firmware. These help the user interact with other utilities such as diagnostic tools, language translators, data communication programs, as well as data management programs. [3]

Application Software[edit]

Application Software are most commonly the programs that run in the foreground of the computer. They tend to perform useful tasks which are not associated with computer maintenance, system boot-up, or hardware communication. Application software is directly reliant on the Systems Software to communicate to the physical components of the computer and cannot operate without it. If you were to visualize this, the Application Software would operate on top of the Systems Software and would be the most visible to the user while the Systems Software would remain in the background unnoticed. The Systems Software would then communicate to the Hardware on its behalf and deliver any information to it from the Application Software. In turn, any information needed from the Hardware would pass through the Systems Software to the Application Software. Application Software are the most familiar forms of software and come in a variety of types. Most often they can be accessed through the graphical user interface of the operating system being used by double-clicking on an icon. Some of the most popular examples include word processors, spreadsheets, photo-editing programs, database programs, and accounting programs to name a few. This list is by no means the extent to which application software may be used and many more programs are being created constantly to help individuals with daily activities. [4]

The Operating System[edit]

A computer would not be able to function correctly without an operating system. An operating system is a software program that empowers the computer hardware to communicate and operate with the computer software.[5] An operating system is one of the most important parts of a computer. The operating system is able to do basic tasks as well as complex tasks. An operating system can be classified as a multiuser, multiprocessing, multitasking, multithreading, and real time. The operating system makes sure that different programs, and users running at the same time, do not interfere with one another. The owner of a computer interacts with the operating system through a set of commands. All application programs need an operating system. Also, operating systems optimizes one’s computer performance. Most of the work that is involved in the operating system is unnoticed because it does the work behind the scenes. This system is in charge of managing one’s network connections. Considering all the new technology out, operating systems must be uploaded in order to support the new technology being uploaded to computers. All in all, the operating system is the core of all computers.[6]

Operating Systems for Personal Computers[edit]


DOS (Disk Operating System) was the dominant operating system for microcomputers in the 1980s and the early 1990s. The first version of DOS was developed for IBM. DOS is a rather simple operating system but it does not utilize a graphical user interface and it does not support modern processors, which is why it is no longer used. [7] Some computers can still run the DOS commands but the user needs to know how to input the commands using the Command Prompt window.


Windows is a series of operating systems that is designed by Microsoft. Microsoft introduced their first Windows operating system in 1985. [8] There have been many different versions of Windows, including Windows Vista and the main feature of Windows Vista is the Instant Search at the bottom of the start menu. Then Windows 7 came out and the improvements were mainly to make it faster and easier to use. The most recent version of Windows is Windows 8. Windows 8.1 comes out late October 2013. The new Windows will allow you do to more than one thing at once. It also allows for a new way to search and there is a way to open the Windows store from your home page.[9] Windows is the most commonly used operating system and is used on about 90% of all personal computers. [10]

Mac OS[edit]

Apple Corporation’s registered operating system is called Mac OS. There are many different branches stemming from the Mac OS X family. It was primarily based off of UNIX because of its standard interface and graphics look. Mac OS X Snow Leopard was the primary operating system, followed by the making of Mac OS X Mountain Lion [11], which is the newest and greatest version of Mac Operating Systems. Mac OS has capabilities of multithreading and multitasking. It also has a 64-bit processor that runs with applications used with 64-bit software. The many great features of Mac OS X creates an easy working environment for students, teachers, and parents to easily access many files. Mac OS is also known for its great graphic features that are popular to artsy users. The Launchpad and Mission Control with the bird’s-eye view of the Dashboard and desktop make opening applications easier for users. Apple plans to launch a new operating system in the Fall of 2014 titled OS X Yosemite, which will feature a redesigned interface as well as multiple ways for users to perform activities across their Apple devices. [12]


UNIX was trademarked in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs as a multitasking, and multi-user computer operating system. [13] UNIX can support systems ranging from microcomputers to mainframes, along with various devices. Because UNIX is used for an assortment of categories of computers, this is a great advantage. However, it is more expensive than most operating systems, and is very difficult to maintain upgrades. UNIX is widely known for its simplicity and ease while working on the computer, therefore different companies use a spin off of UNIX as their operating system, like Mac OS X.


Linux operating system was developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991. [14] This is another spin off operating system of UNIX, but was created separately. Linux is an interesting operating system because all of the Linux contents are open source. [15] This means that a source is available to the public, to which users can download Linux via the Internet and have the capability to run another operating system on their PC or Mac. No other company has done this before. Collaborators of Linux are continually making improvements to the system.

Chrome OS[edit]

Google Chrome OS

Chrome OS is an open-source operating system created by Google to create a better computing experience for people who spend most of their time on the web. [16]On June 15, 2011, Chrome OS was launched to the public with the first Chromebooks, notebooks using the Chrome OS, created by Samsung and Acer. Today, Chromebooks are created by a number of other computer companies including HP, Toshiba, Asus, and Dell. The main reason that Chrome OS is different from other operating systems is that it allows for user data and applications to reside in the cloud, taking up less space on the computer hardware. Because of this, many Chromebooks only contain the same amount of memory and RAM as the average smartphone, Google, however, supplies each user with one-hundred gigabytes of Google Drive cloud storage for up to two years.[17]

Operating Systems for Mobile Phones[edit]

There are many different operating systems for mobile phones and devices but most six stand out as being most used. These are Android, Asha, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone, and Windows RT.

Assorted smartphones.


Android is a free and open source operating system provided by Google. Since the release of Android 2.0, the operating system can be used on phones and tablets. Since HTC Dream was introduced, making the number of mobile devices capable of carrying the Android operating system heighten, Android's worldwide market rose significantly and now reaches 52.5% of the global smarthphone market share.[18]


Asha is used by Nokia phones. These smartphones are on the lower end when it comes to software and component capability. Because of the low capability, Nokia smartphones are usually the cheapest which makes them able to compete with higher end smartphones.[19]


Star C6000

Blackberry's operating system is called BlackBerry 10. This is a closed source operating system for smartphone and tablet devices. The newest operating system developed by Blackberry for tablet devices is BlackBerry Tablet OS.[20]

The BlackBerry operating system has all of the same features a smart phone does: email access, web browsing, phone calls, play music and video, and send and receive text messages. Most models are not touch screen, with the exception of the Storm and the Torch. Instead of a touch screen, a trackball or track pad is the hardware used for navigation. Because there is no touch screen, the operating system does not require that much battery life to process so the phone stays on longer than others. [21] The BlackBerry also has multiple buttons (similar to the image on the right) including a BlackBerry button, back button, call and end button, 1 or 2 convenience keys, and a full keyboard. The BlackBerry button is designed for easy integration, such as sharing a photo via email. This system is geared toward communications rather than games and apps. It features an email software that “pushes” email directly to the user’s phone, which saves battery and provides the most current information. One drawback to this type of smart phone is how limited the customization is. Only the wallpaper and the function of a few buttons can be changed. It also does not feature “widgets” or a wide selection of apps like the android phones do. Overall this operating system is easy for productivity, but falls behind its competitors in a wide selection of applications.


iOS is Apple's operating system for Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and second-generation Apple TVs. This operating system is closed source and not until iOS 2.0 were third party applications offically supported. Prior to this update, jailbreaking was the only way to allow third party applications access to a user's iOS device.[22]

Windows Phone[edit]

Windows Phone is developed by Microsoft as a closed source operating system for mobile phones. It allows users to accesss Microsoft SkyDrive, Office, Xbox, and other Microsoft programs remotely. Windows Phone devices are made mostly by Nokia, HTC, Samsung, and Huawei. [23]On April 14, 2014, Microsoft released its newest mobile operating system, Phone 8.1. The new operating system contained new features including Cortana, a personal assistant similar to Apple’s Siri. The OS also featured upgrades in security, performance, and boot time. [24]

Windows RT[edit]

Windows RT is also developed by Microsoft but this is used on tablet devices. This version closely resembles Windows 8, an operating system developed by Microsoft for computers. It is closed source as well.[25]

Symbian OS[edit]

This was the logo for the now declining empire known as Symbian OS.

There was one OS that used to tower above all the rest, before recently falling completely out of the race thanks to increasingly competitive and more simplistic operating systems. The name of this OS is Symbian, and between 2000-10 it ruled supreme thanks to its partnership with Nokia, a company that excelled in moving large units of inexpensive cellphones. The Symbian company had risen from the ashes of a failing PDA company named Psion, changing its focus to mobile OS development with funding from entities such as Motorola and Ericsson, while the largest funding share always came from Nokia. Unfortunately, between the more complex code (which contributed to development periods that were unthinkable in comparison to what Windows and Mac were developing) and Nokia changing their allegiance to Windows, Symbian said its final goodbye in mid-2013. Any individuals or companies still attached to the Symbian OS will be offered support for a few more years, but they will need to consider their options now instead of waiting for the last minute. Luckily, as can be seen from the plethora of options above, Symbian users can surely pick an OS that is the closest to the quality programming to which they had grown attached.[26]

Mobile Device Systems[edit]

Below are three very popular mobile phone/device providers today. They are Windows, Android, and Apple. The three use different operating systems.

Windows is full of change. Most people have used Windows on their personal computers, but did you know it is also integrated into our GPS systems, ATMs, and even robots? Windows mobile devices include things called tiles which are icons for different things stored in the device itself. Related tiles can be put together in hubs. Windows devices also offer integration with windows office software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). They also include integration with Xbox Live. [27]

Android: Android was created by a group of 30+ mobile technology companies and is based on the Linux operating system. These devices offer the ability to multitask with a split thing (doing two things on the same screen verses switching between tasks). The screen will contain multiple applications that can be bought and downloaded (some for free) from the Android Market.[28]

iOS (Apple): This system is based on Apple's Mac OS X. Similar to the apps of the android system, apple products also contain apps but they are downloaded and purchased from the App Store. There are over 900,000 apps currently available. These devices are also synced to your iTunes account allowing you to upload your music to their devices as well. Some things that are specific to these devices are their Safari web browser, FaceTime, and the ability to track your device through the "Find my iPhone" app. [29]

Utility Programs[edit]


File Management Program[edit]

They organize files and are available for the user to access them. There are 6 important concepts that the file management programs have. To start off, it has a navigation system that gives the user access to the file hierarchy and be able to find their work. The actions to proceed are using the “up” and “down” to navigate through the folders and “go to” to reach their data. Another function is the operations functions which allow the user to interact with the files. The common functions along with this are as follows: open, save, close, copy, move, delete, rename, new and share. The user would obviously be concern about the security of their files. With this being said, the files can be blocked with a login procedure which will only give people that know the username and password access to the file. To keep your file program organized its necessary to maintain the storage on the program in which you should delete any unneeded files. For the conveyance to the user, there is a communications function in which there are links available in order to send out a file to a given location. Lastly, there’s a search function in which you can find a particular file you are looking for. Specifically the Search Tool is very useful for the user. Like explain previously, it will find a particular file by simply using the files name. there are programs that will search the data by key words but it seems to be more beneficial to know the username instead of the program searching all the documents for key words, which may lead to a longer search than intended. [30]

Diagnostic and Disc Management Programs[edit]

With technology playing such an important role in our everyday life, it is important to make sure that is it maintaining itself and running properly. Instead of having to go through and check every aspect of the computer ourselves, computers come with built in diagnostic management program and disc management programs. Diagnostic management programs deal with making sure that everything on the system is working the way it should be, while disc management systems programs worry about the hard drive operating correctly. Most computers come with the basics of this software already built in, however some people prefer to go outside of what they already have and purchase more protection and security for their computer. These programs keep your computer running quickly, optimally, and effectively on a daily basis.[31]

Deleting Unneeded Files

Uninstall and Cleanup Utilities[edit]

You would think that that once a program or application is deleted, no trace of it would be left behind; however, this is very often not the case. In many instances, traces of that file, program, or application are still left embedded into your hard drive. In order to fully get rid of them, people often use something called uninstall utilities. These programs go through your hard drive and remove any unneeded space, memory, or left over remnants from that application that once existed. Many computers come with this option already installed, which makes keeping your computer updated and up to speed an easy task. Clean up utilities are very similar to uninstall utilities; however, instead of going through and deleting old applications and programs, they go through and clean up your computer by deleting temporary files.[32]

The floppy drive that holds one of the original computer worms released into the Internet

File Compression Programs[edit]

File compression programs are designed to reduce the size of files, which allows the user more storage space. For Windows users, these compressed files usually have the .zip or .zipx file extension. The most popular programs are Winrar, Winzip and 7-Zip.[33] For Mac users, these files usually have the .sit or .sitx format. Programs that are commonly used are RAR Expander, StuffIt Expander and MacZip. [34] Some programs have the option of encrypting the zipped files, meaning that a password is required to open the file. This can help those who want to protect their files for themselves or specific users who are granted access. Overall using file compression programs is an efficient way to free up storage space for other computer tasks.

Backup and Recovery Utilities[edit]

Over time one might experience the unfortunate event of a power outage or some other event that leads to the corruption of important system files. For example a storm can cut the power in an instant, which turns off the computer in an unsafe manner thereby leading to the corruption of the operating system and possibly even hardware. The system now is damaged, and this is an important reason why backing up is necessary. Businesses understand this, so it is extremely unlikely for a one to not backup its data on a regular basis because the possibility of losing just a segment can be catastrophic. The Windows Backup program (Windows) and Time Machine program (Mac) are included with their respective operating systems, but software programs exist that can be used for free or a price.

Antivirus, Antispyware, Firewalls, and Other Security Programs[edit]

Malware consists of viruses, trojans, worms, spyware and other forms that disrupt computer operation.[35] As mentioned, malware can infect computers in many ways, whereas the affected suffers while the infector gains. To protect against these threats, it is highly recommended to take advantage of the utility programs offered by the operating system as well as software programs. Popular antivirus programs for Windows include AVG, Norton 360, McAfee, Kaspersky and Microsoft Security Essentials[36] A firewall is used to monitor network ports by controlling inbound and outbound traffic to the network.[37] Its primary purpose is to defend the computer from malware and hackers, but it can also interfere with programs that must access the Internet. It will also not remove malware if it has infected the computer; it only blocks the malware from entering.[38] Spyware is software that tracks personal information unknowningly from the user, which can lead to serious problems.[39] It is important to know the software one is downloading and to understand its license agreement and privacy statement (to see if unwanted software is included).


Review: Key Terms[edit]

Android: A Linux-based operating system designed for mobile phones and developed by the Open Handset Alliance, which is a group of companies led by Google.

application software: Programs that enable users to perform specific tasks on a computer, such as writing a letter or playing a game.

BlackBerry OS: The operating system designed for BlackBerry devices.

command line interface: A user interface that requires the user to communicate instructions to the computer via typed commands.

buffer: An area in RAM or on the hard drive designated to hold input and output on their way in and out of the system.

device driver: A program that enables an operating system to communicate with a specific hardware device; often referred to simply as a driver.

file compression program: A program that reduces the size of files, typically to be stored or transmitted more efficiently.

graphical user interface (GUI): A graphically based interface that allows a user to communicate instructions to the computer easily.

kernel: The essential portion, or core, of an operating system.

Linux: An open source operating system that is available without charge over the Internet and is increasingly being used with mobile devices, personal computers, servers, mainframes, and supercomputers.

mobile operating system: A type of operating system used with mobile phones and other mobile devices.

server operating system: A type of operating system designed to be installed on a network server.

Symbian OS: An operating system historically used with mobile phones, primarily outside North America.

system software: Programs, such as the operating system, that control the operation of a computer and its devices, as well as enable application software to run on the computer.

utility program: A type of software that performs a specific task, usually related to managing or maintaining a computer system.

virtual memory: A memory-management technique that uses hard drive space as additional RAM.

Windows: The primary personal computer operating system developed by Microsoft Corporation; the most recent version is Windows 7, with Windows 8 expected to be released in 2012.

Windows Embedded: A family of operating systems based on Windows that is designed for nonpersonal computer devices, such as cash registers and consumer electronic devices.

Windows Phone: The version of Windows designed for mobile phones; the current version is Windows Phone 7.

Windows Server: The version of Windows designed for server use; the current version is Windows Server 2008 R2.

Review Questions[edit]

1. A computer's __________ is a collection of programs that manage and coordinate the activities taking place within the computer and it is the most critical piece of software installed on the computer.

2. _______ refers to the ability of an operating system to have more than one program open at one time.

3. A _______ is an area in RAM or on the hard drive designed to hold input and output on their way in or out of the system.

4. The process of placing items in a buffer so they can be retrieved by the appropriate device when needed is called _______.

5. The older DOS operating system and some versions of the UNIX and Linux operating systems use a __________, although versions of UNIX and Linux are available.

6. Operating systems used with personal computers are typically referred to as __________ and they are designed to be installed on a single computer.

7. There have been many different versions of ________ over the years; the next few sections chronicle the main developments of this operating system.

8._________ is an operating system developed by Linus Torvalds in 1992 when he was a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

9. The mobile operating system designed for Apple mobile phone and mobile devices, such as the iPhone and the iPod Touch, is _______.

10. Creating a _________ means making a duplicate copy of important files so that when a problem occurs, you can restore those files using the backup copy to avoid data loss.

Answer Key for Review Questions[edit]

1.operating system 2.multitasking 3.buffer 4.spooling 5.command line interface 6.personal operating systems 8.linux 9.iOS 10.backup

Review Reference[edit]