[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

"Software" in common discourse in 2003

The word "software" as used in general discourse is quite specific.
Examples: "software engineer", "database software", "software
development tools", "Free Software Foundation", "software market",
"proprietary software", "real-time software", "software productivity
metrics", "software testing", etc.  To whit: computer programs,
usually including their penumbra of support files and documentation.

This is what dictionaries say:

    $ dict software

    From WordNet (r) 2.0 (August 2003) [wn]:

	   n : (computer science) written programs or procedures or rules
	       and associated documentation pertaining to the operation
	       of a computer system and that are stored in read/write
	       memory; "the market for software is expected to expand"
	       [syn: {software system}, {software package}, {package}]
	       [ant: {hardware}]

    From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (17 May 2003) [foldoc]:


	 <programming> (Or "computer program", "program", "code") The
	 instructions executed by a computer, as opposed to the
	 physical device on which they run (the "{hardware}").


    Computer software
    (Redirected from Software)
    *Software* is a generic term for organized collections of computer
    data and instructions, often broken into two major categories:
    system software that provides the basic non-task-specific
    functions of the computer, and application software which is used
    by users to accomplish specific tasks.

In some technical circumstances "software" can be used in the much
broader sense of essentially all information.  But that is a rare and
technical definition.  If used in general discourse it results in
silliness like movie directors being considered software engineers
because after all they're producing bits.

Slipping between two definitions can be used to perform a rhetorical
trick: first get agreement that "All X's are Y's" under the common
definition of X, then change the definition of X and carry over the
earlier agreement using the new definition.  For instance "criminals
should be put in jail".  Now expand the definition of criminals...

In order to avoid such falacious reasoning, we should be particularly
careful about slipping between the common vs the all-expansive senses
of the word "software".

Reply to: