Internet 101: What is an Operating System

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

So a finance director friend calls me yesterday and says, “I have just transferred some photos from my mobile to my PC and I can’t find them on the PC.”

“What operating system are you using?” I asked.

“Ummm what do you mean?” came the reply.

“Like is it Vista or XP.”

“Oh yes, I see, its 2007.”

“2007? You’re sure?”

“Yes it says 2007 right here.” She insisted.

“Where? Ok don’t worry about it. When you click ‘Start’, can you see ‘My Documents’?”


“Ok. Click on that then find a folder that has ‘Bluetooth’ in its name. Inside it try to find another folder with a name that suggests it receives something from another location.”

“Ahhhh!” came the sigh of relief.

I’m not trying to make fun of this lady by any chance. I come across a lot of very literate people that still don’t understand what I mean when I ask what operating system version their computer is running. Some confuse it with the Office version. It’s no surprise Linux has only appealed to geeks and tech savvy users who dare to explore. Even the much touted Ubuntu can’t break into mainstream use despite being free. The typical user just wants to turn on their machine, enter a password, see a desktop, fire up their MS Office apps and have access to an Internet browser for their Facebook.

Only a few care what operating system it is. As long as it seems to be current (read glossy) they’re good to go. Few care about what browser it is, as long as it opens the pages they need. Even fewer know there’s an equally good alternative to MS office they can get free of charge. Why should they when a trial of MS Office comes preinstalled?

Google’s recent efforts to open up users’ eyes to alternatives might yield some results. Instead of explaining the difference between an operating system, a word processor and a browser, I’ll just point to the Google video. Guilty of blurring the line between operating system and browser themselves with their introduction of Chrome OS, Google hopes when the common user starts to understand what an operating system is, they’ll see they don’t really need the fat one sitting on their computers right now.

I remember a few years ago some geek friends and I were amused when a Sunday Mail technology columnist kept mentioning a product he called Microsoft 2003 in one article. We all wondered if he meant the server operating system or the office suite.

Posted via email from Technology Zimbabwe

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