Appendix A -- Dictionary Entries

Copyright ©2003 by Paul Niquette, all rights reserved.

Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford University Press, 1999



[f. softa. + waren.3, after hardware 1c.]

1.Computers.a. The programs and procedures required to enable a computer to perform a specific task, as opposed to the physical components of the system (see also quot. 1961).b.esp. The body of system programs, including compilers and library routines, required for the operation of a particular computer and often provided by the manufacturer, as opposed to program material provided by a user for a specific task.
   In early use, the word was interpreted widely to include program material written by a user, as well as systems programs, and also occas. the cards and tapes by means of which programs and data are read into the system. Popular usage, as represented by sense 2, is freq. wider in meaning than the current more restrictive technical usage (sense b).

1960Communications Assoc. Computing Machinery June 381 Nearly every manufacturer is claiming compatibility with all other equipment via such software as Cobol.1961Computer Bull. June 42 The programming expertise, or ‘software’, that is at the disposal of the computer user comprises expert advice on all matters of machine code programming, comprehensive libraries of subroutines for all purposes, and the pegasus/sirius scientific autocode.1962D. S. HalacyComputers iii. 54 Punched cards, which fall into the category called computer ‘software’ are cheap, flexible, and compatible with many types of equipment.1964Observer 13 Dec. 1/1 The toughest problem was the ‘software’—particularly the ‘supervisory programme’, the complex instructions which enable the machine to handle many tasks simultaneously.1965HollingdaleTootillElectronic Computers 192 The cost of developing and making the computer itself (the hardware) is matched by the cost of making programming schemes for it (often, regrettably, termed software).1966New Scientist 25 Aug. 433/3 The cost of providing ‘software’—the programmes for operating the computer on a wide range of problems—is enormous.+ The user needs to find the bureau which has the appropriate software for his problems.1967CoxGroseOrganization & Handling Bibl. Rec. by ComputerAbout three years ago, it became clear+that the computer software which was provided and maintained by the manufacturers was not suited to some of the problems of handling and processing large files of data.1969P. DickinsonPride of Heroes 187 A rather wet young man who sells software for computers.1971B. de FerrantiLiving with Computer 89 Software, all computer programs, or that part of a computer system that is not hardware.1972Computer Bull. XVI. 85/1 In those days [sc. 1966] the term ‘software’ was still thought rather disreputable, and the concept was probably thought rather vague.+ More recently, ‘software’ has become more particularised and often seems to refer to what we might call ‘system software’, that is, excluding any programs written for specific applications.+ Thus we have ‘software packages’ and ‘application packages’, and people who write software consider themselves superior to mere programmers.1977K. Heggstad in P. G. J. van Sterkenburg et al. Lexicologie 163 The unit price of hardware is going down.+ On the other hand software costs are rising equally dramatically.1978J. McNeilConsultant i. 30 Hardware is what you can touch—the actual computer, all its peripheral devices.+ Without software all that is quite useless.+ Software, computer programs—they're the same thing.+ My software staff are very strictly monitored.

2.transf. and fig.

1963Flight International LXXXIII. 186/1 To get at the total commitment one has to consider the ‘software’ aspect very closely: for every controller at the scope there may need to be five in the background.1966National Observer (U.S.) 21 Feb. 8/3 This deal+is the latest+in a series of corporate marriages combining+‘the software and the hardware’ of education.1967Punch 24 May 770/3 This documentary was a refreshing change from most space-age reportage, dealing sympathetically with the families of the astronauts living outside the perimeter fence of the Manned Spacecraft Centre in Texas: the software rather than the hardware.1969Guardian 29 Mar. 4/8 The ‘Talking Page’ +is+being launched with a mass of matching software—a maths course, a reading course, an English course for immigrants.1978Gramophone June 136/3 They [sc. players for digitally recorded discs] will be usable with normal stereo amplifiers and speakers but, of course, they will be incompatible with existing software (records and cassettes).1979Observer 11 Nov. 33/2 It was phrased in terms of Israel giving the United States ‘software’—a more flexible attitude on the Middle East—in return for ‘hardware’—arms and military equipment.

3. Special Combs.: software engineering, the professional development, production, and management of system software; so software engineersoftware house, a company that specializes in producing and testing software; also fig.

1969NaurRandellSoftware Engin. (NATO) 81 Is it possible to have software engineers in the numbers in which we need them, without formal software engineering education?1979JensenToniesSoftware Engin. 14 The software engineer is not a theoretician as is the computer scientist.

1969 (titleSoftware engineering; report of a conference sponsored by the NATO Science Committee, Garmisch, Germany, 7th to 11th October, 1968.1973K. W. Morton in F. L. Bauer Adv. Course Software Engin. i. A. 4 When we sit down at a console to write an Algol program, it is software engineering which determines how easy it is to achieve this end.1982I. SommervilleSoftware Engin. i. 3 Software engineering is now maturing into a fully fledged discipline.
1969New Scientist 6 Nov. 285/1 Today there are just over 2000 software houses throughout the world, mostly in America.1982Listener 23–30 Dec. 31/1 If the world's wealth is maximised by specialisation, Britain should become its ‘software house’.


Definitions from Selected Dictionaries

It is often forgotten that dictionaries are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature.
-- Jorge Luis Borges, El Otro, el Mismo

software n (1960): something used or associated with and usually contrasted with hardware: as the entire set of programs, procedures, and related documentation associated with a system and especially a computer system; specif: computer programs.

                                                                              -- Merriam-Webster's Collegiate

software n. Written or printed data, such as programs, routines, and symbolic languages, essential to the operation of computers.

-- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
Houghton Mifflin Company 1981

soft•ware n.. 1. Computers.the programs used to direct the operation of a computer 2. anything that is not hardware but is used with hardware... Computer programs; also called “applications.”

-- Information Please

software n. the programs that are used in a computer system (eg operating systems, and applications programs such as word-processing or database programs).


software n. 1966 Computer Science: The programs, routines, and symbolic languages that control the functioning of the hardware and direct its operation.

-- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
Third Edition. 1996

software n. the instructions which control what a computer does; computer programs

-- Cambridge University Press 2000

soft·ware n. programs and applications for computer: computer programs and applications, such as word processing or database packages, that can be run on a particular computer system. [Mid-19th century. Originally, in plural, "soft goods." The modern sense dates from the mid-20th century.]

-- Encarta® World English Dictionar
North American Edition © 1999-2000 Microsoft Corporation.

software n. the collection of programs loaded externally which cause a computer to perform a desired operation or series of operations (opposed to hardware).

-- The Macquarie Dictionary
software n. any of the languages or programs, or instructions for using these, that are written for and used with a computer.
-- Wordsmyth Educational Dictionary

software n. Computers The programs used to direct the operation of a computer, as well as documentation giving instruction on how to use them. 2. Anything that is not hardware but is used with hardware...(1955-1960)

-- Random House Dictionary of the English Language
Second Edition, Unabridged 1987

soft wares = Dry goods.  Dry goods Commercial -- Chiefly U.S. Textile fabrics, cottons, woolens, linens, silks, laces, etc. -- in distinction from hardware, jewelry, groceries, etc.

-- Websters New International Dictionary
Second Edition, Unabridged 1954
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