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The units that are visible in any computer are the physical components of a data processing system, or hardware. Thus, the input, storage, processing and control devices are hardware. Not visible is the software. The software is the set of computer programs, procedures, and associated documentation that make possible the effective operation of the computer system. Software programs are of two types: systems software and applications software.

Systems software is the program designed to control the operation of a computer system. They do not solve specific problems. They are written to assist people in the use of the computer system by performing tasks, such as controlling all of the operations required, to move data into and out of a computer and all of the steps in executing an application program. The person who prepares systems software is referred to as a systems programmer. Systems programmers are highly trained specialists and important members of the architectural team.

Applications software is the program written to solve specific problems (applications), such as payroll, for example. In other words, application software satisfies your special need. The developers of application software rely mostly on marketing research strategies trying to do their software. As the productivity of the hardware has increased greatly in the recent years, the programmers nowadays tend to include as much as possible in one program to make the software interface look more attractive to user.

The word program usually refers to an application program, and the word programmer is usually a person who prepares applications software.

Often programs, particularly systems software, are stored in an area of memory not used for applications software. These protected programs are stored in an area of memory called read-only memory (ROM), which can be read from but not written. Data communication within and between computer systems is handled by system software. Communications software transfers data from one computer to another. These programs usually include data security and error checking. The most well-known communication software is Web-browser for Internet

Firmware is a term that is commonly used to describe certain programs that are stored in ROM. Firmware often refers to a sequence of instructions (software) that is substituted for hardware. For example, in an instance where cost is more important than performance, the computer system architect might decide not to use special electronic circuits (hardware) to multiply two numbers, but instead write instructions (software) to cause the machine to accomplish the same function by repeated use of circuits already designed to perform addition.

Answer the following questions:

1. What is hardware? 2. Give the definition of software. 3. What are the types of software? 4. What is system software? 5. What kind of tasks does systems software perform? 6. Who prepares system software? 7. What is applications software? 8. What problems do applications software solve? 9. What is firmware? 10. How can a computer system architect use firmware?

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