An earlier unit investigated in detail the hardware components of a computer system. But hardware will not function without the presence of appropriate software. Hardware and software rely on each other to make a computer fully functional.
The Relationship Between Hardware and Software
In this module we have looked at the relationship between hardware and the software that is critically important and required for a fully functioning computer system. There is a delicate balance between the hardware and software in any computer system. The hardware components must have the capacity to perform the instructions sent to it by software. Without operational software—at a minimum, an operating system and some application software—a computer system (that is, the hardware alone) is not a functioning machine. The software, including the operating system and applications, must also be compatible with the hardware system in order to function properly.
The Major Categories of Software and the Purpose of Each Category
Three types of software were investigated:
- Firmware is software that has been permanently written on a read-only memory computer chip. Firmware controls some hardware components and interacts with the operating system. Without firmware, the operating system could not start or perform its tasks.
- System software, which includes the operating system, system utilities, device drivers, and the user interface, controls the loading of application programs and controls input and output to the computer. The operating system is the overall manager of the resources of the entire computer—that is, the files and programs used by the software applications. System software also includes device drivers, which allow peripheral devices to communicate with the computer; utility programs, which help keep your system running properly; and the user interface (UI) and/or graphical user interface (GUI), which translate user actions into language the operating system can interpret and use.
- Application software is the set of programs that the user manipulates for productivity. If your computer had only firmware and an operating system installed, it would be a challenge to be productive in terms of manipulating input and creating output without an application package.
Because these three types of software are deeply integrated with each other and the computer, a fully functioning system requires all three types of software, along with compatible hardware.
Before you complete the quiz activity, please evaluate your understanding of the learning objectives for the Purpose and Functions of Software module and use the first My Response link below to ask any questions that you would like the instructor to address. Your questions can be for clarification of the material or further insight. Your self-evaluation will not be graded, but it will be available for your instructor to read. Answering these questions may also shape the discussions in class.
If you do not feel ready for the quiz, identify the objectives you need to review. Go back to those pages. Read the examples and do the activities. Don’t just read the activities; actually complete them to get practice with the types of questions that will be in the quiz.
Now that you have finished the quiz, do you have any questions? Your instructor will be able to read the questions and comments that you submit.