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A Basic Introduction to Hardware and Software

In the digital age of today, computers have become as integral a part of human life as other basic necessities. Most functions that are considered routine are ruled by computers and specific hardware and software– reading digital newspapers, online shopping, streaming live music and using appliances run on IoT (Internet of Things). However, there is a general lack of awareness of how these tools of everyday life function, what actually drives them and their internal components.

Basically, computers are made of Hardware and Software that are installed as per the needs of the user. Here is a rundown of these two components.

Hardware

Hardware is the equipment or machinery of the computer and refers purely to the physical elements. Some examples of hardware are the monitor, the mouse, the keyboard and the CPU (central processing unit). While the keyboard, mouse and monitor can be seen externally, the other key parts are in a definite type of casing depending on what the computer is – desktop or laptop. The most important part of the computer is the mother board that controls and powers the computer.

Hardware is a physical entity and is interconnected with software without which the computer will not function. On the other hand, without the hardware to carry out tasks as dictated by the software through the central processing unit, the computer would be useless. A total hardware unit consists of the following basic internal elements – Motherboard, PCI busses, Graphics Card, Power Supply, CPU, CD/DVD drives and hard disc. These are apart from the external components as mentioned before.

Software

Software consists of all instructions that tell the hardware how to complete a designated task. These instructions are not given randomly but in a format that will be understood and accepted by the platform or the operating system that the hardware is based on. Compatibility issues will surface if the software is used on an operating system it was not designed for. Software can perform multiple tasks as opposed to hardware which can only take up mechanical tasks.

Broadly, software can be categorised into two segments.

  • System software – This software is pre-installed in the computer and helps run the hardware. It comprises of diagnostic tools, device drivers and operating systems.
  • Application software – This allows users to perform various activities and is created for specific tasks as required by the user. Some examples of application software are word processing and web browsing. Sometimes common application software of everyday necessity comes pre-installed in the computer when it is purchased. Others can be installed as per requirement.

Software is created on advanced programming language that can be read by the end-user. However, it is first converted to instructions in “machine language” in binary code that the hardware will understand. Software installed in a computer exists in this binary form which is processed and the output brought to readable form.