Software is a series of data and instructions that tell a machine how to perform a certain task. It is often used to control a computer or to run applications. For example, an individual may develop a program that controls a personal computer, and that the person uses every day. The same person might also design a web page that a person uses to operate a website. In both cases, the person who has written the software can be called the software programmer.
The distinction between application software and system software is somewhat technical. Basically, application software is what a user uses on his/her computer to conduct specific tasks. On the other hand, system software is what a computer system must be able to perform. Hardware is one example of application software. Hardware is what connects the computer to the user’s hardware. As such, it is an integral part of the computer system.
Software engineering refers to the application of computer software to the operation of a machine. Software engineers apply their knowledge of programming languages to hardware, to provide computer software solutions to a company’s needs. Programmers write the code that operates on the hardware and the operating systems that support those programs.
While many people are familiar with the two main types of software–open source and proprietary software–there are others who are not aware of the subtle differences between the two main types. To better understand the relationship between these two main types, it is important to have a clear understanding of the history of computing. Computer science first developed the term “computer software” in the early 1970s. Prior to that time, most software development was done through hardware design. When the term “software” was first used, it referred to a set of programs that functioned on specific hardware.
As technology advanced, software engineers began to develop language and applications that could be accessed by the user through his operating system. With the evolution of the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and other handheld devices, it became possible to run applications that were not necessarily part of the hardware. The dawn of the personal computer and the rise of the desktop computer made software development more relevant than ever. With this increased importance placed on software development, software engineers began to develop language and application software specifically for use with computers. As new developments appeared, programmers started to tailor their applications to a specific type of hardware. In this way, applications could only be accessed by the specific computer system.
Hardware and operating system software are related because they both depend on the existence of one another. Many times, a software developer will focus their attention on developing a software program that will run well on particular types of hardware. For example, if a developer wants to create software for use on a PDA, they will likely choose a specific operating system for the device. On the other hand, many software developers to focus their attention on a particular hardware platform such as the Windows operating system. While hardware is much more expensive than software, there are a number of examples where software development and the use of specific platforms have increased the functionality of the software.