Networking Primer

Desktop Operating Systems

Each workstation on the network must have desktop operating system software that manages the interaction between the workstation's applications and its other resources. There are various commonly used desktop operating systems, including Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows 95/98, Windows 3.x, UNIX, PC-DOS, OS/2, Linux, MS-DOS, and several versions of the Macintosh operating system. With any of these operating systems a workstation can be used to access files from local hard disks, display information on a monitor, coordinate local printing, and so on.

The desktop operating system controls access to computer resources, storage devices, and any peripheral devices. It also contains very basic networking abilities, allowing you to share information with users on other computers. Two or more computers running the same operating system can be hooked together, using appropriate hardware, to form a simple network by which the computers can share information. This sharing of information is the basis of computer networking. Although this type of network is limited in its capabilities and not often used in today's businesses, it will serve to introduce the concepts of computer networking.

Sharing information between computers, even on a simple network, is a complex process. The information from the application of origin must be converted into electronic data and then sent through the operating system to the hardware that connects the two computers. The receiving computer must then decode the electronic data it receives from the connecting hardware and reconfigure it so it will be recognized by the receiving application. This process involves a complex series of events and some very specific networking hardware. The process of converting information into electronic data and then moving it from one computer to another is explained in the following section, "Data Transmission".

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