A term describing an operating system
or application program
that can be used by several people concurrently; opposite of single-user. Unix
is an example of a multi-user operating system, whereas most (but not all) versions of Microsoft Windows
are intended to support only one user at a time.
A multi-user system, by definition, supports concurrent processing
of multiple tasks (once known as "time-sharing
") or true parallel processing
if it has multiple CPUs.
While batch processing
systems often ran jobs for serveral users concurrently, the term "multi-user" typically implies interactive
networks were commonplace, multi-user systems were accessed from a terminal
(e.g. a vt100
) connected via a serial line
). This arrangement was eventually superseded by networked personal computers
, perhaps sharing files on a file server
. With the wide-spread availability of Internet connections, the idea of sharing centralised resources is becoming trendy again with cloud computing
and managed applications, though this time it is the overhead of administering the system that is being shared rather than the cost of the hardware.
In gaming, both on PCs and games consoles, the equivalent term is multi-player, though the first multi-player games (e.g. ADVENT
) were on multi-user computers.