Software and Hardware

Hardware

The term hardware describes the physical parts of your computer which you can physically touch or see such as your monitor, case, disk drives, microprocessor and other physical parts.

Software

The term software describes the programs that run on your system. This includes your computer operating system and other computer programs which run. Software is written in a computer language (such as Basic, C, Java, or others) by programmers. The computer language is in a text format and can be read by a person although if you do not understand the structure and rules of the language you may not understand it very well. Once a program is written, an operation is performed on it which is called compiling. Compiling is the process of changing the textual written language into a binary language which can be understood by the computer.

Writing these text files and converting them to computer readable files is the way operating systems and most application programs are created.

BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)

BIOS is a low level program used by your system to interface to computer devices such as your video card, keyboard, mouse, hard drive, and other devices. What BIOS programs provide in the computer are very simple function calls or small subprograms which can be used by higher level programs to perform simple operations on computer devices. For example a BIOS program would provide the ability to write a character to memory on a video card.

BIOS is normally written in a low level computer language and is permanently or semi-permanently written into the computer system. This type of computer program is commonly referred to as firmware since it was historically written permanently into computer systems. Although BIOS is a program, because of its permanent state, it was not quite considered to be software so the term firmware is used to describe it.

Historically BIOS programs were written into a type of memory called ROM (read only memory). This type of memory would not lose its data when the computer lost power thus ensuring these BIOS programs would always be available. There were different variants of ROM memory some of which could be written multiple times but this memory could not normally be changed or re-programmed once the computer system was sold to the customer. Once ROM memory was written to, it could not be written to again and could only be read when in the possession of the customer. In more recent years a more flexible form of memory was developed called flash ROM which allows ROM memory to be written to after the computer system is in possession of the customer.

Basic Computer Tutorial Contents Page