Definition of software
Software is an application that assists computer in carrying out its designated tasks. Software is designed to compile the instructions that are necessary for a computer to run programmes. More simply put, it is a written piece of instructions that guides and commands the computer for conducting various operations. Software directs the hardware to carry out a certain task in a defined manner. It establishes a working relationship between the user and the computer.
Special languages are used to form software. These programming languages are scientifically referred to as machine codes.
Software has greatly simplified the complications that a user may encounter while dealing with a machine.
Software is designed and run according to the system’s requirements and the user’s need. Hence, software is divided into two types; the system software and the application software. (1)
System software is essential for maintaining a computer in operative condition. It is responsible for integrating, managing and controlling individual parts of a computer and enables these to run in coherence. As the system software lays down the groundwork for the computer to accomplish the assigned tasks, it is also known as the system’s low-level software.
System software formulates the user interface of a computer. It contains files and programmes that are mandatory to form a computer’s operating system. These system programmes include assemblers, compilers, drivers for different devices such as mouse and printer, system utilities, management tools, debugging parameters and memory spaces. (2)
Application software is task-specific in nature. Its mode of working is different from system software as it is designed to carry out a specific task. Unlike system software, application software is used to introduce new applications and programmes to the computer. Application software cannot run on its own and needs to operate in association with system software. System software is needed to facilitate the working of application software. (1)
Application software has enhanced the versatile utility of computers. It can be defined as a useful link between the system software and hardware, to act more specifically and creatively over the task. Microsoft Office Suite is a good example of an application that runs in a close association with Windows and provides the user with an interface where he can perform different tasks related to writing according to his requirement.
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Software was first created to support and facilitate analytics and computation. Since the advent of electronic computation, scientists were constantly striving to create and introduce a reliable tool that could easily identify and save distinct numerical quantities. As a solution to this problem, an electronic pulse was generated that could implement the instructions for turning on or turning off a device. The on and off instructions were digitally coded as 0 and 1. After this was achieved, there was an evolution of machine codes, and a language was formed that only used 0 and 1 but had the tendency to carry out diverse tasks. (3)
First theory related to software
The first theory regarding the software was formulated by Alan Turing in 1935. Eventually, this theory became the basis of two distinct yet computer-related entities; the computer science and the software engineering.
First piece of software
History of software stretches back to the 19th century when the first ever software piece was developed by Ada Lovelace. This first piece of software was designed to run for an analytical engine, but Lovelace was not able to successfully run the software.
Claude Shannon’s contribution to the evolution of software
Claude Shannon advanced the binary logic to carry out more productive work. He reviewed the binary logic and deduced that it could be utilised to introduce new paradigms into the world of computers. He expanded the horizon for 0 and 1 and gave a practical outline about how logic can be used to exactly programme a computer. This consequently led to the formation of a computer programming team. The team aimed to practically apply binary codes for the execution of different tasks. Though it sounds really good, but it didn’t prove to be an easy solution. The programming team had to create long sequences of programme while using binary logic, which was a really a complicated process.
Also, programming was not the only aspect that concerned software. Loading a programme and writing it on the hardware also proved to be an extremely tough task. Flicking switches and punching holes were the methods initially used for writing a programme on hardware. These methods were not only highly laborious but also entailed high possibilities of errors. That is if any mistake was made while loading the programme, the programme got crashed, and the programmers were required to load the full programme again from the beginning.
Modern software packages
However the basic principles adopted to develop software in the 19th century are similar to those used in the present age, but new concepts have been introduced to overcome previous flaws. Programming has been simplified with the emergence of new programming languages that offer programmers a choice to programme easily and efficiently. Also, different types of assemblers and compilers have been developed which have further simplified the process of program writing and loading onto a computer.
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Software was developed to provide a solution for calculation and analytical difficulties being faced in the 19th century. However, apart from providing solutions for calculation and analytical problems, software has certainly revolutionised the way we work today. Software has extended beyond analytics and calculations to perform a variety of tasks. Integration of graphics into software technology has literally transformed software’s operational methodologies.
Today, software technology corresponds to diverse system displays and user interfaces, which has added new dimensions to software usage. Now software is widely used for playing videos, games and capturing pictures.
System software has been modified from a basic management tool for carrying out fundamental computer operations to a sophisticated tool that can run a wide range of applications.
With the introduction of new computer devices, device drivers have been modified to facilitate and support the running and management of modern devices. There are various different hardware attached to a computer, so multiple drivers are used to support hardware. For example, camera drivers are used to specifically run camera applications on a computer. Similarly, a sound card driver is installed to run audio applications on a computer.
Computing devices are always at a risk of internet bugs and malicious malware and virus attacks. Malware software is responsible for combating these hazardous malware attacks.
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Today software usage is not confined to one specific area, but it has diversified to serve various purposes. All the computing devices, of different natures and kinds, are reliant on software to carry out and complete their assigned tasks. Software has played an important role in simplifying complex tasks, and it can be easily installed, updated and deleted.
System analysis tool
Software can be designed in correspondence to various needs and requirements. It provides a virtual space for the user to work wisely. Software has made it easy for the designers and engineers to practically evaluate their conceptions and calculations using a computer or a mobile device. Without spending any money or much time, the user can assess the performance of his conceptual designs through software. Software does not facilitate design assessment, but it can also help the designer to analyse the progress of his design over the course of time. It gives the user a platform to create shapes and carry out mathematical calculations, as well as, analyse other relevant aspects to predict out how successful the plan may be. Due to this versatility, software has become an integral component of any electronic device.
Software has modernised the general parameters of work and has enabled the designers, engineers and scientists to excel in their fields.
An integral part of working organisations
Software has virtually eliminated the user of paper. It has transformed the working in organisations, encouraging them to carry out their work over computers. Organisations today prefer software as it is easy to run and also saves time. Software has made it extremely easy for the organisations to present complicated procedures over a simplified platform, helping the evaluation of an organisation’s performance. Considering its effectiveness and versatility, organisations consider carrying out their work using software as a more efficient operational and management strategy, rather than relying on conventional means. (4)
Use of software for entertainment
Today software is used to develop working applications with the integration of certain elements that add entertainment factor to work. Software has made work enjoyable by introducing enhanced visual and vibrant colours. It has given rise to the development of applications that project critical and otherwise complex information in a simplified, lively and interactive manner. This makes work interesting and enjoyable.
Software has laid down the foundation for the development of wireless technologies. Evolution of software and its integration to run hardware in a different manner has greatly diminished the need for wired networks. Software gives a platform for conduction of signals without wires. It can behave as a carrier for signals and a platform for wave modulation. The advancements in software have enabled the technologies to run wirelessly, hence creating ease for people.
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Software is difficult to manage, especially when it is subjected to automation. Testing software before its automation is a big challenge for team players. Special skills are required to confirm that the software developed is free of any malware and can run actively on a particular device, without causing any harm to different programs or the device itself. It is really difficult to predict whether the software will acquire any internet bugs when executed, or will it run flawlessly in association with different programmes and device drivers. (5)
Software hacking is another challenge that software developers face in the present times. Software companies frequently receive calls and complaints regarding the malfunctioning of software.
If the machine code for software is altered, it can be made to work in a different way. Hackers take advantage of it and alter software operational methodologies. Despite the registration of several complaints development of numerous solutions, experts have not been able to come up with a feasible tool and technique that provides complete protection from software hacking. The probability of being invaded by hackers still persists for all software. Reducing this to a negligible extent has become a challenge for software companies and manufacturers, but as mentioned earlier, they haven’t been completely successful in their endeavours. (6)