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Computer Terminology

Are you bewildered by some of  the terminology that computer geeks like me use? If so, read on.

As someone who has been in the IT industry for many years I tend to use words that, to me, are commonplace. However, for many people who have only got to grips with technology recently, or who are still trying, many of these terms are baffling.

So I thought I would start a series of posts to try and explain some of this terminology in layman’s terms. This first post in the series is really just an introduction. Future posts will go into more detail.

Hardware

The physical devices that comprise a computer system. Examples of hardware are: PC, laptop, printer, router, smartphone, tablet computer.

Software

The programs that, when running,  make the hardware devices function (see diagram). To use an analogy in the biological world, our brains are the equivalent of hardware whilst our thoughts are the software that make us function.

Software comes in various flavours broadly divided into two categories as follows:

Operating System

The system software that manages computer hardware resources and provides services for computer that allow programs (applications) to work. The operating system is a vital component of the system software in a computer system. Application programs usually require an operating system to function.

Examples of operating systems are Microsoft Windows (for PCs and servers), Android (for smartphones), Windows Phone (for smartphones), OS X (for Apple), Linux (for PCs and servers)

Applications (Apps)

Application software is the computer software that causes a computer, or smartphone, to perform useful tasks other than running the computer itself which is performed by the operating system. Applications are what users normally see and interact with.

Application software comes in all kinds of flavours for example; email and communications software, accounting software, office suites (word processing, spreadsheets etc.), graphics software, and media players.

That’s it for now. Part 2 in this series will look at operating systems  in more depth, in particular the various flavours of operating systems.

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