Computer programs are critical to much of modern life, but most of us donâ€™t have a clue how they work. If you are such a person, here is a basic introduction to software.
Software is the name given to the actual programs that direct the operation of a computer. It is the opposite of hardware which are the physical components of the computer. A rule of thumb for telling the difference might be that if you can touch it, it is hardware. If it is making the hardware perform its functions, it is software. To illustrate this point, think of the computer disc that contains a game or computer application. It might be said that the physical disc itself is actually hardware. You can touch it. The information that is on the disc and is loaded into the memory of your computer is the real software.
The term software is subdivided into several classifications. Some people even have begun to refer to all types of media, such as tapes and films, as software. The classifications can include application software and operating systems software. The operating system software is often called system software. There is even a grouping known as middleware which is software that operates various information distributing systems.
Software is written in a variety of programming languages. It is actually a series of binary instructions that is telling the computer to perform basic functions in an orderly progression or sequence. The software must be loaded into the memory of the computer. On modern personal computers, some software is already preloaded into the memory while other software is loaded as it is needed and used.
Another classification system used for software is system software, programming software, and application software. The system software operates the computer and guides it in the performance of its basic functions. Programming software helps programmers write programs and translates them into correct language. The application software is just about everything else including media displays and computer games. The classifications are mostly arbitrary and refer mostly to function. Regardless of the type, all software is still basically providing a sequential series of basic computer commands.
Interesting issues involving software include the copyright laws and ethics regarding their use. In a sense, even a computer virus is software despite the ill intent the writer of the software might have for it. The idea of programming a series of sequential commands dates all the way back to Charles Babbage and his Difference Machine in 1822. The term software was first coined in the late 1950’s by computer engineers and now has become a very common, if not totally understood, part of modern computer culture.
Aazdak Alisimo writes about software for SoftwareMonk.com.