Why Multitasking?

The Need for Multitasking

When many of us who purchased our first PC back in 1981 or 1982 began to use them, we immediately discovered that we needed the ability to run multiple programs at the same time. For example, within a week of taking delivery of my first PC, I was writing a letter on it. During the course of this letter, I needed to make an arithmetic calculation. I did not have a calculator, but I did have this $5,000 computer; unfortunately I could not use it to do the calculation without some time-consuming procedures. I had to go through the following steps to make a calculation and get it into my document.

  1. Save my document
  2. Exit from the word processor
  3. Insert a diskette with a calculator program
  4. Start the calculator program
  5. Make the calculations
  6. Write down the result
  7. Exit the calculator program
  8. Insert the word processing diskette
  9. Restart the word processor
  10. Load the document on which I was working
  11. Find my place in the document
  12. Type in the number

Because so many early adopters of the PC encountered this same problem, companies like Borland created programs such as Sidekick which would load and remain silent and unused in memory while other programs – such as word processors – did the work required of it. When you needed a calculator, a calendar, a schedule, or so on, you pressed a couple keys and the desired utility program appeared on the screen, ready for use. Programs like Sidekick are called Terminate and Stay Resident programs, or TSRs. So, immediately after the original IBM PC became available back in 1981, people were already trying to overcome the intrinsic single tasking nature of DOS.

One way to make your computer more efficient is to put to use as many of those wasted CPU cycles as you can. That means that you need to add true multitasking to your computer. Multitasking also makes you more efficient because you can have the programs you need available when you need them. There are currently a number of operating systems which you can use and which will give you some form of multitasking.