What is Computer Software?

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What is Computer Software?

Post  Code Maestro on Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:08 pm

What most people think of as a computer can actually be divided into two parts. The first part, computer hardware, does all of the physical work computers are known for. The second part, computer software, tells the hardware what to do and how to do it. If you were to think of a computer as a living being, then the hardware would be the body that does things like seeing with eyes, lifting objects, and filling the lungs with air; the software would be the intelligence, interpreting the images that come through the eyes, telling the arms how to lift objects, and forcing the body to fill the lungs with air.

Computer hardware, being part of a machine, can only understand two basic concepts: on and off. The on and off concept is called binary. Computer software was developed in order to make binary into a useful way to tell the computer hardware what to do. Computer software translates concepts and directions that people can understand into something that can actually be done on the computer hardware.

Computer software is most commonly created by computer programmers using a programming language. The programmer writes commands in the programming language that are similar to what someone might use in everyday speech. These commands are called source code. Another computer program called a compiler is then used on the source code, transforming the commands into a language that the computer can understand. The result is an executable computer program, which is another name for software.

Computer software falls into two primary categories: system software and application software. System software represents programs that allow the hardware to run properly. Application software represents programs that allow users to do something besides simply run the hardware. Some experts also include a third category, programming software, though others put those programs into one of the other previously mentioned categories.

A few different types of computer software include:

Computer Games – a form of entertainment software that has many genres. Some of these genres include MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online games), first-person shooters, action games, roleplaying games, and adventure games.

Driver Software – programs that allow a computer to interact with additional hardware devices such as printers, scanners, and video cards.

Educational Software – programs and games that teach the user or provide drills to help memorize facts. Educational software is diverse, and can teach anything from computer-related activities like typing to higher education subjects like chemistry.

Media Players and Media Development Software – software designed to play and/or edit digital media files such as music and videos.

Productivity Software – an older term that refers to any programs that would allow the user to be more productive in a business sense. Word processors, database management utilities, and presentation software all fall into this category.

Operating Systems - software that coordinates system resources and allows other programs to run. A few examples are Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and Linux.

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