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Next: Basic Unix primer Up: THE Unix SHELL GUIDE Previous: Preface

What is a Shell?

What is a shell? A shell is a command interpreter. While this is certainly true it likely doesn't enlighten the reader any further. A shell is an entity that takes input from the user and deals with the computer rather than have the user deal directly with the computer. If the user had to deal directly with the computer he would not get much done as the computer only understands strings of 1's and 0's. While this is a bit of a misrepresentation of what the shell actually does (the idea of an operating system is neglected) it provides a rough idea that should cause the reader to be grateful that there is such a thing as a shell. A good way to view a shell is as follows. When a person drives a car, that person doesn't have to actually adjust every detail that goes along with making the engine run, or the electronic system controlling all of the engine timing and so on. All the user (or driver in this example) needs to know is that D means drive and that pressing accelerator pedal will make the car go faster or slower. The dashboard would also be considered part of the the shell since pertinent information relating to the user's involvement in operating the car is displayed there. In fact any part of the car that the user has control of during operation of the car would be considered part of the shell. I think the idea of what a shell is coming clear now. It is a program that allows the user to use the computer without him having to deal directly with it. It is in a sense a protective shell that prevents the user and computer from coming into contact with one another.




next up previous contents
Next: Basic Unix primer Up: THE Unix SHELL GUIDE Previous: Preface

Douglas M Gingrich
Mon Apr 27 15:25:49 MDT 1998