Operating Systems

PACS Training - IT Basics 101

Definition, Functions, and Examples

Let’s Talk About Operating Systems

When you use a computer, there are multiple computer programs that run at the same time and require access to the central processing unit (CPU), storage, and memory. All of this coordination is made possible with the operating system. So, what exactly is an operating system? Let’s have a discussion on it in this module.

Operating System – Definition

An operating system is a software that runs on a computer and manages all other hardware and software components of the computer; including the computer’s processes and memory. It empowers you to interact with the computer without knowing the computer language. You can think of an operating system as software that offers an interface between you and the computer and handles the execution of all programs.

Operating System – Key Functions

The key functions of an operating system include:

  • Processor management
  • Memory management
  • File management
  • Device management
  • Application management
  • System performance control
  • Coordination between hardware and software
  • Security

In short, a computer is nothing without an operating system. In addition, an operating system comes with an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) that makes it possible for you to use a mouse and keyboard to interact with the data displayed on your computer screen.

Operating System – Examples

When you buy a computer, it mostly comes with a pre-installed operating system. You can either use the same operating system or you can install a different one depending on your needs. Today, there are many operating systems available. However, the most common ones are as follow:

  • Windows: Windows is Microsoft’s operating system and is being used in over 90% of the world’s computers.
  • macOS: macOS is Apple’s operating system designed to work on Apple’s PCs and workstations.
  • Linux: Linux is an open-source, community-developed, and UNIX-like operating system for computers, enterprise servers, mobile devices, etc.

Other than computers, operating systems are also designed for mobile devices. Google Android and Apple iOS are the most common operating systems for smartphones. 

Why the Operating System is a Must?

Here’s the question: Since an operating system is also software, why does a computer really need it to run other software and hardware? Let’s understand this point by assuming what will happen without an operating system. 

When a computer does not have an operating system, every software will require its own user interface and extensive coding to handle disk storage, memory interaction, network interfaces, etc. Moreover, the interaction between the hardware (such as the screen) and software will become a lot more complex, making software development a lot more difficult and impossible in some cases.

With an operating system in place, the software can interact with the system’s hardware without knowing the details of the hardware. It becomes much easier for software to configure, control, and manage system hardware through a well-understood and common interface. This way, software development becomes a lot easier and less time-consuming. 

The modern operating systems are an all-in-one platform to configure and manage a wide range of system hardware, such as CPU, memory, chipsets, Universal Serial Bus (USB), High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), networking, etc. In short, an operating system is like a backbone of a computer without which it is almost impossible to leverage the full potential of computer hardware and other software. 

How this Relates to your PACS Training

A PACS administrator will most likely work with the Windows and Linux operating systems. Clinicians and other staff in the hospital enterprise use workstations running on Windows 10 or 11. Application web servers are Windows server based. Storage and archive solutions run on Linux servers. In most cases, the Linux servers are managed by the vendor. The windows applications are jointly managed by the PACS administrator, enterprise IT and the vendors.

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