Software is simply a set of data and instructions that tell a particular computer how to operate. Whereas hardware is part of a machine, the software is attached to the machine. This is opposed to physical computing devices, in which the machine is completely built and only performs the specific work required. Software programs are usually stored on a personal computer or a server. They can be written to a diskette, or they can be read from a tape, CD-ROM, or digital input/output device.
Many different types of computer programs exist, ranging from office programs to gaming systems. Most common types of software programs that are sold are shareware. Shareware is free software that is given away in exchange for having the option of upgrading it or using it in a trial version. When the user finds that he or she likes the software, then they often purchase the full version in order to continue using it.
There are also many third-party operating system software programs. This kind of software is not made by the manufacturer of a computer system, but instead is created by an independent company for their specific use. Their main focus is to fill in the specific operating system gaps left by a manufacturer’s design or by the product being used at the time. They may fill in the basic needs of an OS such as a desktop, a menu structure, and the basic drivers needed by the computer system. They might also go as far as to create a customized user interface for the user. For example, a gaming OS might have its own specialized graphics driver software.
There are also a variety of other examples of software that are both free and paid for. Examples include accounting software, desktop publishing programs, and language translation packages. All of these examples are needed when developing computer systems, and most all programmers are required to have a working knowledge of at least one of them. Without good examples in the paid programming languages, a programmer would have a very difficult time finishing a program or implementing a process within his OS.
The best way to understand this point is to put it in terms of another technical area. If you were to go to the local hardware store to purchase any hardware item, the first thing you’d see is the computer hardware. Then you’d see programming samples, (if there were any), various types of monitors, and other instruction manuals. The reason why this is so important is because a hardware item describes how things work while the software describes how those things work. Thus, when it comes to computer software, the programmers must be very clear about what they’re doing in order to explain it to someone who isn’t an engineer.
So, it’s a good idea for computer hardware and software developers/programmers to have examples of their work in some form. It may not be necessary for them to actually develop examples of their own work, but showing that someone else has made an error, or explaining why a program doesn’t work can help clarify matters. Thus, Computer scientists ought to consider hiring a qualified software engineer/developer just as much as they think about hiring a qualified computer hardware engineer/developer.