<operating system> A short program loaded from non-volatile storage and
used to bootstrap a computer.
On early computers great efforts were expended on making the bootstrap loader
short, in order to make it easy to toggle in via the front panel switches. It
was just clever enough to read in a slightly more complex program (usually from
punched cards or paper tape), to which it handed control. This program in turn
read the application or operating system from a magnetic tape drive or disk
drive. Thus, in successive steps, the computer "pulled itself up by its
bootstraps" to a useful operating state.
Nowadays the bootstrap loader is usually found in ROM or EPROM, and reads the
first stage in from a fixed location on the disk, called the "boot block". When
this program gains control, it is powerful enough to load the actual OS and hand
control over to it. A diskless workstation can use bootp to load its OS from the
booting « BOOTP « bootstrap « bootstrap loader
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