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Software and Hardware: Describing Computer Terminology to the Layman

Software most often refers to the programs, or the information, the computer needs to perform its functions. The hardware is the actual computer, with its peripheral machinery such as printers, scanners, screens, storage devices and the like.

Hardware is easy to understand. It is right in front of the user and can be seen and felt. Software, on the other hand, is written in code and is not really seen; only the results of the hardware’s interaction with the software are experienced by the user.

Software comes in two major types: systems software and applications software. Systems software refers to the instructions the computer takes to carry out its functions and include the operating system and the utilities which give the computer its ability to perform tasks.

Applications software can vary from games, to word processing programs, to date entry, to management systems, and just about anything a programmer can imagine. With the advent of highly portable computers and hand held information devices such as iPhones and tablets, the development of innovative software applications, usually referred to as “apps” has increased geometrically.

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