INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTERS: SOFTWARE Computer software is anything that can be stored electronically. The term is used to contrast with computer hardware (the physical objects); unlike hardware, software cannot be touched. Hardware and software require each other and neither has any value without the other. Firmware is software that has been permanently stored in hardware. It is typically not user accessible and usually contains the basic software programming of the device. Firmware such as the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) of a personal computer typically contains only elementary basic functions and allows the computer to run more complicated software. Software refers to the computer programs and data held in the storage of the computer. In other words, software is a set of programs, procedures, algorithms and its documentation concerned with the operation of a data processing system. On most computer platforms, software can be grouped into two broad categories: System software is the basic software needed for a computer to operate (most notably the Operating System) including: DOS, Windows, UNIX, Linux, Mac OS, etc. Application software is all the software that uses the computer system to perform useful work beyond the operation of the computer itself. Examples of common applications are: word processor, spreadsheet, database, Internet browser, email, games, etc. Data is all the documents and files that are created or manipulated by application software, including documents, spreadsheets, pictures, movies, etc. Trav’s Tips:There are many terms used for the process of accessing software including running, executing, starting up, opening, booting, etc. All software is stored in files on a storage device. System Software: Operating Systems All computers need some sort of Operating System (OS) to function. The majority of modern home computers use some form of Microsoft’s operating systems (Apple computers made up only 13.5% of new home computer sales in 2012). The original Microsoft operating system was called DOS (Disk Operating System) and was replaced by a pretty, mouse controlled Graphical User Interface (GUI) that Microsoft called Windows. Windows comes in various versions beginning with version 3.x then 95, 98, ME, XP, Vista, 7 and 8. Apple’s Mac computers use their own operating system beginning with Apple OS 1 though to OS X 10.8 and are commonly referred to by cat names including Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion. Linux is a free operating system that has many of the functions of Windows or Apple OS. The operating system controls the flow of information to and from the CPU. Basically the computer starts from scratch every time you turn the power on and it first needs to load the operating system (booting up). It automatically checks all its components and then loads into the operating system. Once the operating system is loaded the user can start an application or program. Application software is created to work on specific operating systems only.