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Chapter 7. BIOS

Think of the Basic Input/Output System of your computer as its crazy Aunt Maud, locked away from public eyes in a cobwebby garret. Except for the occasional deranged laughter that rings through the halls, you might never know she was there, and you don't think about her again until the next reel of the B-movie that makes up your life.

As with your own old Aunt Maud, your computer's BIOS is something that you want to forget but is always there, lingering in the background, popping into sight only at the least convenient times. Despite its idiosyncrasies and age, despite the embarrassment it causes, the BIOS is something your computer can't live without. It defines what your computer is and keeps it in line, just as Aunt Maud defines what your family really is and her antics keep you in line (or at least tangled up in obscure legal proceedings). You'd really like to be rid of Aunt Maud, but only she knows the secret of your family's jewels, a secret someday you hope you'll wrest from her.

The BIOS of your computer lingers around like that unwelcome relative, but it also holds the secrets of your computer. You can lock it up, even build a wall around it, but it will always be there. When you switch on your computer, it laughs at you from the monitor screen, appearing in the rags and tatters of text mode before your system jumps off into modern high-resolution color. Most of what you do on your computer now sidesteps the BIOS, so you'd think you could do without it. You might never suspect that behind the scenes the BIOS of your computer tests your system, assures you that everything is okay when you start your system, helps you set up your computer so that it runs at its best, and gracefully steps out of the way when you no longer need it.

Although modern operating systems such as Windows do their best to hide the BIOS and take its place, it always lurks in the background like crazy old Aunt Maud locked in the garret. Just as Aunt Maud may ruin a dinner party when she suddenly pops up babbling about a talking moose, your BIOS bursts onto the scene when you least expect it and ruins your fun (for example, hiding half of your new hard disk).

However, your Aunt Maud might just not be as crazy as she seems, watching over you quietly from her garret, hiding in the background but working in her own mysterious ways to make sure your life goes well.

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