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What is Multitasking

In the earlier days of computing, back in the early 1980s, multitasking was barely heard of, since most computers were capable of only running one program (or "task") at once. To work with another program, it was necessary to close the one you were currently working in before running another. In this day and age, when all modern computers and most other devices are capable of multitasking, this certainly seems like a frustrating way of using a computer! Devices which are around today which don't support multitasking mostly include very basic devices such as lower-end mobile phones.

Multitasking is limited to some degree on any computer. For the most part, it depends on how much memory your computer has installed, although other hardware resources also come into play. Fortunately, for most computer users, the limit on the number of programs and services that can be run simultaneously is never reached. Today's computers come with gigabytes of memory rather than megabytes, and it's not very common to receive an error message telling you that you need to close some programs to free up resources in order to open another program.

Even though most of today's computers tend to come with more memory than the average user will ever need, it is still sometimes necessary to recognise your computer's limits. Although your computer may be perfectly capable of it, it's generally not a good idea to have programs running unnecessarily. This is especially true for users of high-end productivity applications or video games, since you're typically going to want to have as many system resources available to run more hardware-intensive programs. If, for example, you want to enjoy the latest 3D games, but performance is choppy when you try to play them, you'll want to close any other open applications before you start playing. Doing so will free up memory and processing power and provide more performance for the video game.

Multitasking became common on computers with the arrival of graphical user interfaces such as those provided ever since the first version of Windows. Windows even gets its name because it can display multiple programs on the screen at once, running in what are referred to in the computer world as "windows." Modern computers typically have multicore processes as well, greatly increasing multitasking capabilities.


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