Software Careers Background
The software industry comprises many facets: personal computer (PC) applications; operating systems for both stand-alone and networked systems; management tools for networks; enterprise software that enables efficient management of large corporations’ production, sales, and information systems; software applications and operating systems for mainframe computers; and customized software for specific industry management. Packaged software is written for mass distribution, rather than for the specific needs of a particular user. Broad categories of packaged applications include operating systems, utilities, applications, and programming languages.
Operating systems control the basic functions of a computer or network. Utilities perform support functions such as backup or virus protection. Programming software is used to develop the sets of instructions that build all other types of software. The software most familiar to the majority of computer users is application software. This includes the familiar word processing, spreadsheets, and email packages used in business; games and reference software used at home; and subject, or skill-based, software used in schools.
Although software has always been an important part of computer history, the software market did not really take off until the advent of the personal computer. IBM debuted its personal computer in 1981. Osborne released the first portable computer that same year. Apple came out with the first graphical user interface (GUI) and mouse, which set the standard for future computers, according to Cass Brewer (“Computer History,” Web Guide Monthly, September 1998). The GUI made computers much easier for the average person to use. “Software was used mainly by ‘power users,’” says David Berner, a systems analyst for Baxter International. “But with the GUI, nontechnical people could also use computers easily.”
That user friendliness propelled computers to become the devices that have revolutionized the way we do business and, in reality, the way we live. “In 1983,” according to the IEEE Computer Society, “software development exploded with the introduction of the PC. Standard applications included not only spreadsheets and word processors, but graphics packages and communications systems.” Needless to say, the software industry has boomed since then.
The worldwide packaged software industry for all platforms was worth about $220 billion in 2005. Of this, the United States is estimated to hold an approximately 50 percent share of the market. U.S. software companies lead the world in development and production of original, effective, and efficient products for businesses, homes, and schools.