Software is a collection of instructions that enable the user to interact with a computer, its hardware, or perform tasks. Without software, most computers would be useless. For example, without your Internet browser software, you could not surf the Internet or read this page. Without an operating system, the browser could not run on your computer.
The theory of software was first proposed by Alan Turing in 1935 in his essay “Computable numbers with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” However, the word software was coined by mathematician and statistician John Tukey in a 1958 issue of American Mathematical Monthly in which he discussed electronic calculators’ programs.
Software is often divided into three categories:
(i) System Software
System software serves as a base for application software. System software includes device drivers, operating systems (OSs), compilers, disk formatters, text editors and utilities helping the computer to operate more efficiently. It is also responsible for managing hardware components and providing basic non-task-specific functions. The system software is usually written in C programming language.
(ii) Programming Software
Programming software is a set of tools to aid developers in writing programs. The various tools available are compilers, linkers, debuggers, interpreters and text editors.
(iii) Application Software
Application software is intended to perform certain tasks. Examples of application software include office suites, gaming applications, database systems and educational software. Application software can be a single program or a collection of small programs. This type of software is what consumers most typically think of as “software.”
What was the first piece of computer software?
The first software program that was held in electronic memory was written by Tom Kilburn. The program calculated the highest factor of the integer 218 = 262,144, and was successfully executed on June 21, 1948, at the University of Manchester, England. The computer that held that program was called the SSEM (Small Scale Experimental Machine), otherwise known as the “Manchester Baby.” This event is widely celebrated as the birth of software.