MAPCON Maintenance Software Article Series

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How Software Changed the World

Lisa Richards, Educational Outreach Writer

Software is all around us, yet few people think much about the many ways that software impacts the world every day. Where did the history of software begin? Where did the need for software come from? How did computer science develop from those early days to reach the astonishing achievements that surround us today? Let's explore all of these questions and more as we delve deeper into the history of software. The development of software from the late 1930s to the present is a fascinating story and one that few people know all of the details about.

The history of computing is often said to start with the tactical problems engineers needed to solve in World War II, but it wasn"t until 1941 that engineer Konrad Zuse designed a digital computer capable of using software to solve general problems. During the 1950s, standardized programming languages emerged from the need to reproduce old software on new hardware. By the 1960s, software - until then given away for free with new computers - was being produced and sold to end users. By the 1980s, software companies saw the potential in the user-friendly graphical interfaces we are now familiar with; Apple started producing operating systems in the mid-1980s and Microsoft in the early 1990s, leading to the era of convenient and fast software.

Today, software is all around us. In 2008, the number of personal computers in the world surpassed one billion; as recently as December of 2013, experts estimated there were 1.4 billion smartphones in use. Each of these devices is organized by an operating system, a very complex piece of software with many interrelated functions. However, that only scratches the surface of what software does. Software is used by businesses to communicate worldwide. It is used to operate some of the most complex medical machines. It regulates nuclear plants, electrical grids, and other utilities that provide the basics of life. Of course, it is also behind the safe operation of more than 31 million commercial airline flights in the U.S. each year.

Software also helps make life convenient. For example, computer software has made it easier than ever to connect with friends all over the world using social networks. As software becomes more integrated into electronics and appliances, it will continue to simplify life"s challenges. As an example, everyone is familiar with how much easier it is to drive from point A to point B thanks to on-board GPS software. Refrigerators can now notify owners about spoiled food; lights around town and in your home can brighten when they detect you walking in the dark; televisions can make suggestions and record your favorite shows based on your preferences.

Whatever the future holds, it is a good bet that software will remain a very important part of it. As computer software becomes more sophisticated, it will help people with more complex challenges. In the future, software may even help us to regulate and improve our own bodies! Today"s wearable technology and implanted medical devices are just the beginning of what the next generation of software can do. As amazing as it all is, it's important to remember the past and the long road that software has traveled to become the indispensable tool it is today.

If you would like to learn more about software and the amazing impact it has had on the world, there are many resources for you to choose from. Review the links below to learn more:

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