In homological algebra, to understand commutative rings R, one studies R-modules, chain complexes of R-modules and their monoids, the differential graded R-algebras. The category of R-modules has a rich structure, but too rigid to efficiently work with homological invariants and homotopy invariant properties. It appears more appropriate to operate in the derived category D(R), which is the homotopy category of differential graded R-modules. Algebra of symmetric spectra offers a generalization of homological algebra. In this frame, spectra are objects that take the place of abelian groups; in particular, the analogue of the initial ring Z is the sphere spectrum S. Tensoring over S endows the category of spectra with a symmetric monoidal smash product, analogous to the tensor product of abelian groups. Thus, spectra are S-modules, and ring spectra, which extend the notion of rings, are the S-algebras. To any discrete ring R, one can associate the Eilenberg-Mac Lane ring spectrum HR, which is commutative if R is.