What is RISC OS? - Lesson 1
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RISC OS is a multi-tasking operating system which runs on ARM based computer systems. It's easiest to assume that RISC OS is different to other operating systems you may have used, in the same sense that Mac OS is different to Windows, which in turn is different to Linux.

However, to the casual user RISC OS looks quite similar to other wimp systems. wimp stands for Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointer. Some books may refer to the M standing for mouse but this is incorrect because you don't necessarily have to use a mouse. Indeed, many wimp systems are keyboard-only. The wimp is generally the first thing a new user will witness when they turn a modern computer on. This is because virtually all systems these days have a Graphical User Interface, or GUI. This is what the user sees and uses in order to communicate with the computer.

It's what you're looking at now as you read this. The GUI consists of all the windows, graphics and other things that you see on the screen in front of you. It's also how you control the computer, either by pressing certain keys or clicking on various icons.

An icon is basically a small pictorial representation of a particular computer function, indicated by a small graphic. For example, the navigation toolbar on your web browser contains icons, via which you can tell the web browser what to do. A small printer icon may allow you to print a page when you click on it, for example.

Big money can be made from designing better GUI systems so that beginners and experts alike can be more productive and efficient in using the computer and finding their way around. Apple, for example, is well known for having a designer-ish user interface and being easy to use for non computer experts.

This is where, in my opinion, RISC OS wins because it is not only flexible, powerful and intuitive but it is also highly configurable yet easy to use for complete beginners - which is why RISC OS systems dominated British schools and colleges in the 1990's. With the marketing clout of Microsoft though, RISC OS has largely disappeared from schools and public institutions - which is a pity because it is still the most capable, stable and easy to use of desktop computer operating systems. It's arguably even easier to use than the latest Mac OS X - which is testament to how well it was designed, back in 1987.

Example desktop
A brief view of a RISC OS desktop, shrunk down.

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Last edit: 15th Feb 2017 at 1:50am
(374 days ago)

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