110 ◾ Information Systems: What Every Business Student Needs to Know
As you read this chapter, focus on these key concepts to use on the job:
1. Hardware is useless without soware, since soware tells hardware what to do.
2. Soware can be divided into categories: system/application, proprietary/open
source, and (for applications) horizontal/vertical. Knowing these categories
givesyou a head start on understanding a piece of soware and where it might
3. e most important piece of system soware is the operating system (OS). Its three
functions are managing shared resources, dening the user interface, and providing
4. Soware is complex, detail-ridden, and error-prone.
Imagine your first day on the job after graduation. You’re given a desk, paper, pen-
cils, a computer. That’s it. Nobody tells you what your job is, what to do, or anything
Chances are you’d take initiative, such as asking a manager what you should do. Maybe
you’d hear “e orientation and training program will begin this aernoon. Until then,
read up on the company on our Web site.” Maybe you’d get specic instructions: “Oh, I
didn’t know you were here yet. Analyze these sales gures to see if there’s a problem in the
A computer is like that new graduate, but with no initiative. It can carry out instructions
that can be combined in millions of ways to carry out useful processes. It has no idea of
which instructions to carry out or how to combine them.
e computer that hosts a shopping website was not built knowing that it should use
two letters in a box labeled STATE, in a U.S. shipping address, to access a table named
TAX_RATES to nd the state sales tax rate for a bill. And it certainly has no idea that, if
the state is MA, there’s no tax on the rst $175 of an item of clothing—or how to tell if item
N-376A-9 is clothing at all. Something has to tell that computer what to do, down to the
tiniest detail. at thing is soware (Box 4.1).
Soware is a collective term for the instructions that tell a computer what to do.
BOX 4.1 NOTE ON LANGUAGE
“Software” is an uncountable noun. Like “water,” it has no plural. You can’t have two soft-
wares. You can have two programs, two applications, two software packages, or two CDs
with software on them—but not two softwares. If you have one game and buy another, you
have two games. You have more software, but you still don’t have two softwares.