In this exercise, we’ll break down the main components of the Linux operating system. First, let’s explain what an operating system is. It is a system program that provides an interface between the user and the hardware. When a computer boots up, the operating system is the first program that loads and manages all of the other application programs on a computer.

The kernel is the most important part of the operating system. It performs a variety of tasks:

  • process management
  • managing hardware devices
  • task scheduling

The kernel controls all the major functions of the hardware, whether it’s a phone, laptop, or server. When we talked about what Linus Torvalds first published in 1991, it was the kernel.

The shell is the interface between the user and kernel. At its barest, it is a command-line interpreter where a user can enter commands which are interpreted by the computer to perform a certain task. In Linux, the shell language is called Bash.

Inside operating systems with desktop environments such as Windows and Mac OS, users may never interact with the shell, but in Linux, the shell plays a huge role. We can even install programs to use only within the shell. Some versions of Linux (like Ubuntu) have graphical desktop environments too. To navigate in a Linux environment and get the most out of it though, we have to be familiar with the Bash command language, which is what the Linux shell interprets.

In the next exercise, we’ll learn more about Linux distributions that we can choose from for an operating system.


View the diagram of the kernel and shell, then press “next” to continue.

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