The hardware computer system described previously is a system that can be efficiently built by engineers, but not a system that can be easily used by the rest of us.

We need a set of programs that will run on the hardware previously described, but will present us with a higher level abstraction, a more user-friendly virtual environment.

That is an abstract domain that masks the "dirty details" of the underlying systems to make the machine operate in a more human friendly manner.

For example, this virtual environment should allow us to think in terms of..

integer numbers, characters, real numbers
high level language statements
arithmetic expressions
files and directories / folders

instead of

bit strings and binary numbers
machine instructions (in binary)
sequences of machine instructions
addresses of memory locations
bytes, tracks, and sectors

Programs that allow us to think in these more convenient terms are called system software:

"... a collection of computer programs that manage the resources of a computer and facilitate access to those resources."


CS1104 Main Page
Last Updated 01/05/2000
© L.Heath, 2000