The viability of packet switched computer communication has been demonstrated. The potential for more effective computing through resource sharing and load leveling is evident. Realization of this potential requires expanded user support to reduce or eliminate much of the need for users to learn the command languages of the hosts being accessed and of the communications subnetwork. Such a capability can be provided by a mediating agent providing ease of access to resources and control of resource access---a role traditionally ascribed to an operating system in the context of an individual computer system. This mediating agent, hereafter termed a Network Operating System (NOS), requires careful exploration to determine its appropriate interaction with the operating systems of the hosts within the network. This paper discusses the functions required of a Network Operating System and identifies major differences between the role of the Network Operating System and an individual host operating system. As such, it is intended to provide a basic perspective on the field of Network Operating Systems.
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