Category Archive: Technology
Computer memory is an irreplaceable element of a computer system, as it temporarily stores data and programs being utilized.
Without the assist of this handy little resource, computers wouldn’t be able to operate at their peak performance level – or even function properly.
By allowing quick access to the currently used data and applications, computer memory makes possible smooth computing processes that we’ve come to rely on in our everyday lives.
Different types of computer memory exist for different purposes and applications. The major partitions include: Types, Capacity, Architecture, and Management.
Each is integral to the operation of a successful system; from efficient storage with ample capacity to proper management built on an optimized architecture.
Types of Memory
The division of computer memory has two primary components: Types of Memory, which is further split into RAM (Random Access Memory) and ROM (Read-Only Memory).
RAM, a type of volatile memory that holds data temporarily while your computer is running, comes in two forms: Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) and Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM).
SRAM doesn’t need to be replenished with energy continuously; this makes it faster and more dependable than DRAM. Comparatively speaking, though less expensive due to its requirement for constant power source refreshes, DRAM can’t beat the quick processing capacity or extended lifecycle offered by SRAM.
ROM, in comparison, is a type of non-volatile memory that preserves information permanently. It comes in many forms like Programmable Read-Only Memory (PROM), Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EPROM), and Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM).
When it comes to computer memory, there is Memory Capacity – the amount of data that can be stored. This capacity is measured in kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB).
Thanks to technology advancements, we are now able to store far larger amounts of information than ever before!
Memory Architecture, the third key branch of computer memory, encompasses the physical structure in which memories are saved. Cache Memory, Main Memory, Secondary Memory and Virtual Memory all fall under this category.
Cache memory is a high-speed, short-term storage that can store data quickly due to its close proximity to the processor.
On the other hand, main memory (or Random Access Memory) acts as a computer system’s primary source for storing and executing current programs and data.
Secondary memory, also known as mass storage, is used to store data permanently. This type of memory is slower than main memory but has a much larger capacity.
Examples of secondary memory include hard disk drives (HDD), solid-state drives (SSD), and flash drives.
Virtual memory is a type of memory management that allows a computer to extend its main memory by temporarily transferring data to a hard disk.
This allows the computer to run larger programs than it would be able to with just main memory.
The last key component of computer memory is Memory Management, which refers to the management and control of the computers’ inner workings.
This element includes Memory Allocation, Memory Paging, as well as Segmentation – all providing a comprehensive system for effective functioning.
Allocating memory is a process of breaking the memory into distinct, manageable chunks and assigning them to applications when they are executed.
The two types of allocation available for this task include stack allocating for short-term data and heap allocator that works best with long-term storage requirements.
Memory paging is an optimal system of memory management which divides the RAM into segments known as pages.
This enables the operating system to better manage its resources, effortlessly transferring data between both main memory and disk when necessary.
Memory segmentation is an effective way of managing the memory by dividing it into distinct segments, each allocated to a certain program or data structure.
This provides not only better organization and optimization but also protection against accidental access violations.
To put it simply, computer memory is fundamental to a functioning system. There are various kinds of memory that each serve distinct roles and purposes.
Knowing the details behind Types of Memory, Memory Capacity, Memory Architecture, and Memory Management will help optimize your device’s performance in no time!
In summary: don’t underestimate just how important understanding computer memory really is.
Computers have been around for decades and have worked their way into almost every home, school, and business. Despite the prevalence of computer equipment, many people are still confused by some of the technical language and jargon that comes with the territory.
Computers consist of a variety of components, each of which performs an individual function to ensure the system works as a whole. One of these components is the CPU, which is an incredibly important part of any operating system.
Here we will outline exactly what a CPU is, what it does, and some examples of this vital piece of the computing puzzle.
What does CPU stand for?
Like many computing components, CPU is an acronym. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit but can also reference a main processor or any processor.
What is a CPU?
The CPU is essentially the computer’s brain and carries out instructions from the system software. It performs calculations, logic checks, controls, and input/output (I/O) operations that are communicated to it by the software. It is an internal component not usually exposed outside a computer device’s casing.
What is the CPU made from?
The CPU consists of a silicon chip that is set into a special socket on the computer’s motherboard. These components contain billions of tiny transistors on the chip, enabling it to carry out the calculations and operations outlined above. As they turn on and off, they convey 1s and 0s to translate any electronic input into an operation.
The CPU will largely determine the speed of the computer and its response to inputs. Over the years, the transistors on the chip have become smaller, resulting in increased speed. There is even an observed law that states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years, known as Moore’s Law.
However, not every CPU is constructed in the same way, as some CPUs are part of a System on Chip integration.
What is System on Chip (SoC)?
In some devices, such as mobile and tablet computers, the CPU is embedded into a chip alongside other components. This is known as a System on Chip (SoC) approach, which can package the CPU alongside the GPU and memory.
What is the difference between a CPU and a GPU?
We just mentioned a GPU, which may also have left you scratching your head. GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit and is similar to the CPU but specifically designed to process graphics-related tasks. This can be things like displaying visuals on a screen, rendering 3D images, and more. In addition, the CPU and GPU will generally work together to offer even faster computer processing speeds.
As well as a separate and dedicated GPU component, there is also the option for integrated graphics. Integrated graphics means that the GPU and CPU are built into the same chip, which can be efficient for some users but less effective for heavy graphics-based tasks such as video editing, gaming, and design.
What does a CPU do?
We have touched on the basic function of a CPU briefly already, but here we will break down its function in more detail.
The CPU will generally receive, interpret and carry out commands. The commands are received from the RAM (Random Access Memory), and the CPU then interprets this command.
This command may need to be resolved through some simple mathematics or basic functions. The language of computer systems is numbers, so the CPU can be considered an extremely rapid calculator. This command may launch a piece of software, display an image on the screen or carry out a calculation on a spreadsheet. These steps are commonly referred to as fetch, decode and execute.
The CPU can also assign tasks to other, more specialized components of the computer system. If you need to display a visual from a video game, for example, the CPU will assign this task to the GPU.
Early CPUs made use of a single processing core, although modern CPUs made use of multiple cores. Having more than one core allows the CPU to carry out many actions at once, increasing the system’s speed and response times.
When looking at CPUs, you may encounter a clock speed specification. This number is presented in the unit of gigahertz (GHz). Essentially, this number determines how many instructions a CPU can carry out every second. Generally, a higher clock speed will denote a faster processor.
History of CPUs
So now you have a basic idea of what a CPU is and what it is, but what is the component’s origin?
The term has been used since 1955, with the first devices that could be referred to as CPUs emerging in the 1940s.
However, CPUs, as we know them today, first came to light through the Intel 4004. This was the world’s first microprocessor with a CPU on a single chip. It was released in March 1971 and was incredibly important for the drastic advancement of computer systems over the next few decades.
All you need to remember is that a CPU is the component of the computer that fetches inputs, decodes the instructions, and then executes the command. These commands can be distributed to more specialized hardware, such as the GPU. Many types of CPUs have different speeds, constructions, and sizes. They are used in various devices, from mobile phones to computers.
As a tech-savvy individual, it is crucial to possess a fundamental familiarity with the lexicon and principles pertinent to operating systems.
From startup directories and system invocations to virtual memory and trojans, there are many technical terms that can be perplexing for those inexperienced in the realm of computing.
In this blog post, we will provide a glossary of prevalent operating system terminology to aid in your comprehension of how your computer operates and resolve any potential issues that may arise.
Regardless of your level of expertise, having a solid foundation of knowledge about operating systems is indispensable for optimizing your computer’s performance and ensuring its optimal functioning.
API (Application Programming Interface): A comprehensive set of protocols and tools for constructing sophisticated software applications.
Abstraction: A programming concept that involves exposing only the essential characteristics and behaviors of an object, while concealing its intricate implementation details.
Adware: Irksome software that displays unwanted advertisements on a computer.
Antivirus: Indispensable software that detects and removes malevolent malware from a computer.
Application sandbox: A secure, isolated environment that prevents an application from accessing sensitive data or making unauthorized modifications to the system.
“OS sandboxing technology runs below the endpoint device’s operating system on bare-metal hardware. It splits each device into multiple, local virtual machines, each with its own operating system. Everything end-users do happens in different operating systems, which run side-by-side with full separation.” Source
BIOS (Basic Input/Output System): Low-level firmware that controls the boot process of a computer and provides basic input/output functions.
Boot: The crucial process of starting up a computer.
Bootloader: Essential software that loads the operating system kernel during the boot process.
Cache: A small, fast area of memory that stores frequently accessed data to improve performance.
Cloud computing: The innovative delivery of computing resources over the internet, allowing users to access data and applications remotely.
Cluster: A group of computers that work together seamlessly to perform a task or process.
Command line interface: An interface that allows users to interact with the operating system using text-based commands, providing a powerful and efficient way to communicate with the system.
“A command line interface (CLI) enables users to type commands in a terminal or console window to interact with an operating system. Users respond to a visual prompt by typing a command on a specified line, and receive a response back from the system. Users type a command or series of commands for each task they want to perform.” Source
Compiler flag: An important option that is passed to a compiler to specify how it should process the source code.
Compiler: A program that translates source code into machine code that can be executed by a computer, enabling the creation of executable programs.
Concurrency: The ability of an operating system or program to execute multiple tasks or processes concurrently, improving efficiency and performance.
DLL (Dynamic Link Library): A useful library of functions that can be loaded and used by multiple programs, providing a convenient way to share code.
Daemon: A useful background process that performs tasks or services for other programs, running unobtrusively in the background.
Deadlock: A predicament in which two or more processes are impeded and unable to proceed, causing a system to become unresponsive.
Debugger: A tool that assists in the identification and correction of errors in a program by enabling the developer to inspect the state of the program as it executes.
Desktop: The main screen or workspace of a computer, where users can place icons, files, and other objects.
Device driver: A program that enables a computer to communicate with a specific hardware device.
Directory: A repository on a computer where files and other directories can be stored.
Domain controller: A server that oversees the security and policies of a domain.
Domain name system (DNS): A complex system that translates domain names (such as www.example.com) into IP addresses, allowing computers to communicate with each other flawlessly.
Domain: A diverse collection of computers that share a common name and are administered together harmoniously.
Dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP): A protocol that automatically and proficiently assigns IP addresses to devices on a network.
“Every device on a TCP/IP-based network must have a unique unicast IP address to access the network and its resources. Without DHCP, IP addresses for new computers or computers that are moved from one subnet to another must be configured manually; IP addresses for computers that are removed from the network must be manually reclaimed” Source
Encapsulation: A programming concept that involves bundling data and functionality together in a cohesive unit, or object.
Encryption: The process of encoding data to make it unreadable and secure from unauthorized users.
Event-driven programming: A programming paradigm that is based on the use of events, such as user input or system notifications, to trigger the execution of code in a reactive manner.
File compression: The process of reducing the size of a file by eliminating unnecessary or redundant data.
File extension: A unique set of letters that follows the name of a file and indicates the type of file it is.
File index: A sophisticated data structure that stores the locations of files on a computer, allowing them to be swiftly and effortlessly retrieved.
File permission: A comprehensive set of rules that determine which users or groups can access a file or directory.
File system check: A thorough diagnostic process that verifies the structural stability of a file system and promptly resolves any flaws.
File system driver: A sophisticated software program that facilitates the smooth communication between the operating system and the file system, enabling the seamless exchange of data.
File system mount: The process of attaching a file system to a directory in the operating system, making it readily accessible to the user.
File system unmount: The process of detaching a file system from a directory in the operating system, rendering it completely inaccessible to the user.
File system: A sophisticated system of organization and storage of files on a computer, allowing for quick and efficient retrieval and manipulation.
File: A digital record containing important information that is stored on a computer.
Firewall: A robust network security system that controls incoming and outgoing traffic based on predetermined security rules, safeguarding the system from malicious attacks.
Related: Firewall & Security Management
Firmware: Low-level software that is permanently stored in a hardware device and controls its fundamental functions.
Functional programming: A programming paradigm that is based on the use of functions to manipulate data, rather than using state and mutable data.
“Functional programming (also called FP) is a way of thinking about software construction by creating pure functions. It avoid concepts of shared state, mutable data observed in Object Oriented Programming.” Source
GUI (Graphical User Interface): A user-friendly interface that utilizes visual elements such as icons and menus to allow users to easily interact with the operating system.
Hypervisor: Advanced virtualization software that allows multiple operating systems to run on the same physical hardware, enabling efficient resource sharing and consolidation.
IDE (Integrated Development Environment): A comprehensive software application that provides a wide range of tools for writing, debugging, and testing code, streamlining the software development process.
Inheritance: A programming concept that allows a class to inherit properties and methods from a parent class, promoting efficient code reuse and modularity.
Interrupt: A signal sent to the operating system by a hardware device or software program to request immediate attention or services.
Kernel: The central component of an operating system that manages the hardware and software resources of a computer, enabling the smooth execution of user programs.
“The kernel is the heart of the operating system and controls all the important functions of hardware – this is the case for Linux, macOS and Windows, smartphones, servers, and virtualizations like KVM as well as every other type of computer.” Source
Library: A repository of compiled code that can be linked into a program to perform specialized tasks.
Linker: A program that combines object code files and libraries into a cohesive executable file.
Load balancing: The strategic distribution of workloads across multiple computers or servers to optimize performance and reliability.
Malware: A malicious software designed to harm or exploit a computer system.
Memory management: The judicious allocation and deallocation of memory to and from processes and programs.
Monitors: A synchronization object that allows multiple threads to access a shared resource in a controlled manner, utilizing a lock and conditional variables.
Mutex: A synchronization object that exclusively allows one thread to access a shared resource at a time.
Network adapter: A hardware device that connects a computer to a network.
Network file system (NFS): A protocol enabling a computer to access files on another computer over a network as if they were stored on its own local hard drive.
Network protocol: A set of rules and standards that govern the communication between devices on a network.
Network security: Measures taken to secure a network and its data from unauthorized access or attacks.
Network share: A resource, such as a file or printer, that is made accessible to other devices on a network.
Network-attached storage (NAS): A device that connects to a network and provides file-based data storage services.
Object-oriented programming (OOP): A programming paradigm that utilizes the concept of objects and their interactions to achieve its objectives.
Patch: A small yet crucial update that rectifies a specific issue within an operating system or software program.
“When software updates become available, vendors usually put them on their websites for users to download. Install updates as soon as possible to protect your computer, phone, or other digital device against attackers who would take advantage of system vulnerabilities.” Source
Plugin: A software extension that adds specialized and often unique functionality to an application.
Polymorphism: A programming concept that allows objects of different classes to be treated as a single, unified type, permitting them to be used interchangeably and adaptively.
Priority: A value that determines the order in which processes and threads are scheduled for execution, with higher priorities being given precedence over lower priorities.
Process: An instance of a program being actively executed by the computer.
Race condition: A scenario in which the outcome of a process is dependent on the timing of other processes, resulting in unpredictable and often undesirable outcomes.
Ransomware: A nefarious type of malware that encrypts a victim’s data and demands a ransom for its restoration, often causing significant disruption and damage to the victim’s systems.
Recovery disk: A removable storage device, such as a USB drive or CD, that contains a copy of the operating system and can be utilized to restore the system in the event of failure or disaster.
“A recovery disk is probably the most essential Windows component. Ideally, it helps us reinstall Windows in case of a system failure or any other unwanted issue.” Source
Related: Backup & Disaster Recovery
Recovery partition: A dedicated area on a hard drive that contains a copy of the operating system and can be utilized to restore the system in the event of failure or disaster.
Redundant array of independent disks (RAID): A system that employs multiple disks in an intelligent and redundant manner, providing enhanced performance, capacity, and reliability for the user.
Registry: A comprehensive database of system and program settings on a Windows operating system, utilized to store vital configuration and customization information.
Rootkit: A malicious program cleverly crafted to penetrate the kernel of an operating system, allowing it to manipulate and execute hazardous code without detection.
SDK (Software Development Kit): A set of tools and resources that are used to develop software applications.
Scheduler: The scheduler plays a pivotal role in the OS, as it ensures that all processes and threads are optimally allocated and managed for maximum efficiency.
Semaphore: An efficient synchronization tool for managing simultaneous access to a shared resource among multiple threads.
Service: An unobtrusive program that executes a designated task or mission in the background.
Shortcut: Need to quickly access a file, folder, or program? A shortcut is the answer! It’s an easy-to-use link that will take you directly to where you need go. Save time by setting up shortcuts on your desktop – it only takes a couple of seconds and then all of your frequently used items are just one click away.
Shutdown: Powering down a computer, thus ending its current session.
Spyware: Unbeknownst to users, Spyware can infiltrate computers and monitor any action taken online.
Startup folder: When you store programs and scripts in the startup folder, they will be launched as soon as your computer is powered on. This makes it easy to access frequently used applications without needing to open them manually each time.
Storage Area Network (SAN): Harness the power of a Storage Area Network (SAN) to maximize server efficiency and speed. SANs are dedicated, high-speed networks that link storage devices directly to servers for optimal performance.
Structured programming: A programming paradigm that is based on the use of control structures, such as loops and conditional statements, to organize code into logical blocks.
Swap space: A hard drive section employed as virtual memory when the physical RAM is overwhelmed and can no longer take on additional information.
System backup: A copy of all or some of the data and settings on a computer, made for the purpose of restoration in case of data loss or system failure.
System call: When a program needs assistance from the operating system to complete an assigned task or service, we call this a ‘system call’. It is essentially the bridge between the application and its underlying processes.
System log: A comprehensive summary of system events and messages that is invaluable for troubleshooting and assessment.
System monitor: A powerful tool that offers instantaneous insight into a computer’s functioning and resource utilization.
System restore: The process of returning a computer to a previous state using a system backup.
System tray: An area on the taskbar that displays icons for system and program features, such as the volume control and network status.
Task manager: A powerful tool that enables users to efficiently monitor and manage their computer’s resources. With this helpful utility, you can easily keep track of the processes running on your computing device and make sure everything runs smoothly.
Taskbar: A bar at the bottom of the screen that displays the open programs and allows users to switch between them.
Thread: Threads are an invaluable tool for modern computing, a lightweight process that can be generated within any given program and still remain independent from other processes running concurrently.
Trojan: A malevolent form of software that deceives the user by masquerading as a safe or legitimate application.
Update: A modification to an operating system or software program that fixes bugs or adds new features.
Virtual memory: A form of extended storage that acts as an extension to a computer’s physical RAM, increasing its total capacity.
Virtual Private Network (VPN): Leverage the power of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep your data secure while navigating public networks, like the internet. VPNs provide an extra layer of protection by encrypting communication for maximum privacy and security.
Virtualization: The process of creating a virtual version of a hardware device or operating system.
Virus: Viruses are a malicious form of malware that can self-replicate and quickly spread between computers, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting networks.
An operating system (OS) is a comprehensive collection of software that effectively manages computer hardware resources and consistently provides standardized services for computer programs.
Considered the most vital software within a computer system, an operating system performs fundamental tasks such as expeditiously recognizing input from the keyboard, accurately transmitting output to the display screen, attentively maintaining records of files and directories on the disk, and proficiently controlling peripheral devices such as disk drives and printers.
Some examples of well-known operating systems include Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. Each operating system boasts a unique user interface and adeptly handles diverse hardware and software.
As a critical component of a computer system, the operating system plays a pivotal role in the seamless functioning and efficient management of the hardware and software resources of the system.
Types Of Operating Systems
There exist a variety of operating systems, which can be classified based on their capability to concurrently execute multiple tasks, otherwise known as multi-tasking.
Single-tasking operating systems
Single-tasking operating systems are designed to only run a single program at a time.
While a program is running, the operating system is unable to perform any other tasks until the program has completed or been closed.
These operating systems are scarce and typically found in older or simpler systems.
Multi-tasking operating systems
Contrarily, multi-tasking operating systems are engineered to run multiple programs concurrently and efficiently.
The operating system can effectively allocate its time and resources among multiple programs and execute them simultaneously.
There are two main types of multi-tasking operating systems:
- Cooperative multi-tasking: Cooperative multi-tasking is a type in which each program is expected to share the CPU (Central Processing Unit) with other programs and must yield control of the CPU to the next program when its allotted time slice has been used. In this type of multi-tasking, each program is given a slice of time to execute its instructions and then must willingly give up control of the CPU. This type of multi-tasking is generally found in older or simpler systems.
- Preemptive multi-tasking: Preemptive multi-tasking is a more advanced, sophisticated type of multi-tasking in which the operating system can interrupt a currently running program and give control of the CPU to another program at any time. This allows the operating system to prioritize specific tasks and ensure that more important, time-sensitive tasks are completed promptly. As a result, preemptive multi-tasking is more common in modern, advanced operating systems.
Here are some other types of operating systems:
Real-time operating systems
Real-time operating systems are specifically designed to promptly respond to external events and are used in different applications where the operating system must powerfully respond to input within a specific time frame, such as in industrial control systems, aviation, and military applications.
Embedded operating systems
Embedded operating systems are boldly designed to run on devices with limited resources, such as smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices.
They are cleverly optimized to be lightweight and efficient and often have a small, compact footprint, making them suitable for devices with limited storage and processing power.
Server operating systems
Server operating systems are expertly designed to run on servers, which are powerful, high-performance computers that provide swift resources and services to other computers or devices on a network.
Common examples of server operating systems include Microsoft Windows Server and Linux.
Mobile operating systems
Mobile operating systems are designed to run on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Examples of mobile operating systems include Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Distributed operating systems
Distributed operating systems are designed to run on multiple computers connected by a network and diligently allow multiple computers to work together and share resources, such as processing power, memory, and storage.
Some examples of distributed operating systems include Windows NT and UNIX.
The Main Components Of An Operating System
The main components of an operating system are:
The kernel is the central and critical component of the operating system that effectively manages the hardware and software resources of the system. It is responsible for efficiently scheduling tasks, managing memory, and controlling input/output operations.
System libraries are comprehensive collections of software routines that proficiently perform everyday tasks, such as input/output operations and communication with hardware devices.
System utilities are specialized programs that perform specific tasks related to the maintenance and management of the operating system and the computer.
Examples of system utilities include:
- Disk defragmenters
- Disk cleaners
- System update tools
System services are programs that run in the background and provide essential support for other programs.
Examples of system services include:
- The print spooler (which efficiently manages print jobs).
- The event log (which accurately records system events).
- The task scheduler (which effectively schedules tasks to be performed at a later time).
The user interface is a critical part of the operating system that allows users to interact with the computer in various ways, such as using a graphical user interface (GUI) that employs visual elements like windows, icons, and menus, or a command-line interface (CLI) that utilizes text-based commands to execute tasks efficiently.
Application programming interfaces (APIs)
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are comprehensive sets of programming instructions that enable diverse software programs to communicate with one another and the operating system, providing a standardized method for programs to request services from the operating system or other programs efficiently.
Device drivers are specialized programs that facilitate communication between the operating system and hardware devices, such as printers, keyboards, and disk drives, serving as a bridge between the two and translating the instructions of the operating system into actions that the hardware can comprehend smoothly.
The file system is a crucial aspect of the operating system that manages the storage, organization, and access of files on a computer, including the directory structure, file permissions, and other mechanisms that regulate access to files efficiently.
Memory management involves allocating and deallocating memory to different programs as required, with the operating system responsible for managing the computer’s memory and ensuring that programs have adequate memory to run smoothly.
Process management involves creating, scheduling, and controlling the execution of programs on a computer, with the operating system responsible for creating and managing processes and determining how resources, such as the CPU and memory, are allocated to each process efficiently.
Some operating systems incorporate networking capabilities that allow the computer to connect to and communicate with other devices on a network, including support for various network protocols like TCP/IP and tools for managing network connections and resources efficiently.
Scheduling a Network Upgrade? Here’s How to Get Started.
Security is a vital aspect of contemporary operating systems, including authentication, authorization, and encryption mechanisms to protect the system and its data from unauthorized access and malicious attacks effectively.
An operating system is a collection of software that manages computer hardware resources efficiently and provides standard services for computer programs effectively.
It consists of several components, including the kernel, system libraries, system utilities, system services, user interface, and application programming interfaces (APIs).
In addition to these core components, an operating system may include device drivers, a file system, memory management, process management, networking capabilities, and security features.
The specific components of an operating system depend on its design and the system’s particular needs, which are carefully evaluated and considered in the development process.
Computers have become one of the most important parts of modern society. They facilitate the communication of billions of people around the world and power almost every industry.
Most people are aware of computer hardware since this is the physical equipment they interact with to operate computer systems.
Despite this awareness, some people are still mystified by the software loaded onto computers and how it works.
Here we will explore the definition, history, and types of software.
Computer Software Definition
Computer software is a group of programs, documentation, and data that is built into a computer system to register user inputs and process relevant outputs.
The software is essentially code that is written into custom scripts that run on a device using the commands from the connected hardware. There are different types of computer software that perform different actions on a vast range of devices, varying hugely in complexity and function.
History of Computer Software
The very first example of the principles of computer software could be Ada Lovelace’s programs for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in the 19th century.
This system was a simple general purpose computer used for solving equations using a complex mechanical device. Alan Turing took these ideas a step further in 1935 when he put forward advanced theories for computer software, branching into the fields of computer science and software engineering.
Software as we know it first emerged in the 1940s, written in binary code for large mainframe computers. The very first time a computer system held a piece of working software within its memory was in 1948 in Manchester. This system was known as the Manchester Baby, and the software was written in binary by the mathematician Tom Kilburn.
A dedicated programming language was developed at IBM in the early 1950s and released under the name FORTRAN in 1957. The software was developed by a team led by computer scientist John Backus and by 1963, most major manufacturers were utilizing FORTRAN within their computers.
Several other programming languages emerged during this period, including COBOL and FORMAC, which were primarily focused on powering business operations. During the 60s, the programming language BASIC was used to power the Apollo Mission to the moon, cementing computer software as one of the most important human innovations in history.
During the 1970s and 1980s, more user-friendly computer software hit the market, focusing on interactable graphical user interfaces (GUIs).
Huge operating systems like Unix, macOS for Apple devices, and of course, Microsoft’s Windows software. These operating systems allowed users to simply interact with computers using peripheral hardware such as keyboards and computer mice.
These operating systems have become the foundation for consumer computing products and made their way into the hands of people around the globe in the 2000s.
While there are examples of handheld mobile devices with operating systems, the iPhone from Apple is the product that introduced pocket software to the masses in 2007. The iOS software built into the iPhone products registers inputs from a touch screen to perform actions and produce visual or audio outputs.
Types of Computer Software
Computer software is encoded programs that do not have a material form and instead operate from within the system memory to execute commands, process inputs, and display outputs. You can generally split the software into two distinct categories, defined below:
Operating System (OS): arguably the most important form of software, an OS is the graphical interface through which the user operates the computer. Examples include Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Application software: These are installable or preloaded package programs that perform a given function or fulfill a utility purpose. They can be used to create art or music, produce written content, program other pieces of software, provide education, or play games. Examples include Microsoft Office, Internet browsers, Image editing suites like Photoshop, and much more.
Software is designed and run using a programming language such as C++, Java, or Python that operates mostly behind the scenes to make the software work. This is represented as strings of code that convey commands and inputs to the hardware.
What is Computer Software used for?
Computer software has a broad range of uses, and we will summarize the most common uses below:
Navigating a computer system: The role of an operating system is to enable the user to navigate around the user interface, file structures, and applications. This can be done through a mouse and keyboard, tracker pads, voice controls, gaming controllers, touchscreens, and more. These input devices are often referred to as peripherals.
Word processing: Using a software package like Microsoft Word, users can type passages of text and format them to their liking. Images, icons, videos, and animated GIFs can also be integrated into text-based content to make it more engaging or fit for purpose.
Spreadsheets and databases: Spreadsheets are documents that house, process, and output data and are often used in the financial sector due to their powerful calculation capacity. Databases work in a similar way but are more focused on storage and quick access to data and records.
Computer-Aided Design: Through a CAD application, designers can model and draw products, buildings, and civil works that can then be manufactured from these detailed plans.
Computer software has skyrocketed from a theoretical concept in the 1940s to a fundamental part of modern society that powers almost every industry.
Billions of people interact with software on a daily basis, largely due to the increased accessibility of personal computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablet devices.
As we move toward a new era of virtual reality and concepts like computer implants, the software is sure to play a large part in the future of humanity as we interact with computers with inputs to generate a range of outputs.