Anyone who owns a personal computer uses the term “software” almost every day without knowing the meaning or the history of the software. It is an exciting field that motivates our PCs to perform the tasks we demand. However, the translation of the term into “soft goods” does not explain their tasks so conclusively that everyone immediately knows the meaning.
The term “software” was coined in 1958 by John W. Tukey and it is still used today. The computers of today would not be able to work at all without the installation of certain programs, which we still call software.
At first, it was all about arithmetic tasks
As early as the early 1950s, computer manufacturers had begun to supply customers with the associated software upon delivery of a computer – still referred to today as hardware. With the spread of personal computers, the programs necessary for the operating system became a product class under the term software, which was not only distributed together with the computer, but was now also available individually. The beginnings of software, however, lie long before its distribution to the public.
The first computer scientist
As early as 1944, Harvard University’s Computation Lab introduced Mark I, an electronically mechanical calculator for which mathematician Grace Murray Hopper had programmed instructions on punched cards. Howard Hathaway Aiken was responsible for the actual function of the computer, and so the areas of hardware and software separated for the first time.
Computers have their own language
In the course of these developments there were numerous computer languages such as FORTRAN and COBOL, the latter having similar structures to the English language. These two languages are still used for programming today.
But the computers and their data acquisition became bigger and bigger, so that many companies designed different programs, which are still known to us today as system software and up to now provide the basis for the use of a computer. Without these operating systems, today’s computers would no longer be able to perform computing tasks.