While most users rate computers in terms of their manufacturer or hardware, computing devices would be rendered almost unusable for most people without the software we run on them. Sure, Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) and RAM, etc. are essential but, underneath, it’s the software we run on our machines that make them work and provide a helpful service.
In broad terms, computer software can be split into two types:
Operating Systems (OSs): Used to control the hardware and provide a virtual interface between hardware and user.
Applications: Application software programs (now commonly referred to simply as ‘apps’) perform practical benefits for users, e.g., programs like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop.
One common consideration between OSs and applications is the need for code security during the development phase and further down the line to keep software updated and protect users from hackers. Cybercriminals are constantly trying to exploit issues and find backdoor security flaws in software.
For this reason, when you’re offered updates to your OS or the programs you run, you should install them as soon as possible to save leaving yourself exposed to new risks.
While its strength seems hard to believe, the first computer program was written back in 1843 by a mathematician, Ada Lovelace, to work with a physical machine built by Charles Babbage. Programming has come a considerable way since computers nowadays rely on a Central Processing Unit (CPU) to interpret software compiled in specific programming languages to understand and execute instructions set by the user.
All computer-driven devices run an Operating System to function – everything from laptops and desktops (typically running Apple’s OS or Microsoft Windows) to mobile devices (mostly running Apple iOS and Google Android). The OS of a device allows it to manage hardware resources, offer User Interface (UI) components, and provide a platform to enable developers to write software to extend the usefulness of the machine.
Without OSs, the software you commonly use today would be worthless and amount to little more than lines of complicated code.
Applications extend the OS of a computer to allow users to accomplish specific goals – for example, writing a document in Microsoft Word or listening to music on Spotify, etc. In short, apps are the side of computing that brings tangible benefits to the user. An OS on its own would be of little use – however, OSs remain the fundamental building blocks of all the programs you use.
Utilities and developer programs are an essential subsection of apps that should not be overlooked. Utility apps allow users to modify their device – for example, by offering antivirus protection or performing backups.
Programmers use software development platforms to write new software and compile and debug code, allowing the developer to write programs that can then be run on a computer. Software dev programs also will enable the coder to test and convert their code into a format that the computer’s OS will understand.
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