computer program

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computer program,

a series of instructions that a computercomputer,
device capable of performing a series of arithmetic or logical operations. A computer is distinguished from a calculating machine, such as an electronic calculator, by being able to store a computer program (so that it can repeat its operations and make logical
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 can interpret and execute; programs are also called software to distinguish them from hardware, the physical equipment used in data processingdata processing
or information processing,
operations (e.g., handling, merging, sorting, and computing) performed upon data in accordance with strictly defined procedures, such as recording and summarizing the financial transactions of a business.
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. These programming instructions cause the computer to perform arithmetic and logical operations or comparisons (and then take some additional action based on the comparison) or to input or output data in a desired sequence. In conventional computing the operations are executed sequentially; in parallel processingparallel processing,
the concurrent or simultaneous execution of two or more parts of a single computer program, at speeds far exceeding those of a conventional computer.
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 the operations are allocated among multiple processors, which execute them concurrently and share the results. Programs are often written as a series of subroutines, which can be used in more than one program or at more than one point in the same program.

Systems programs are those that control the operation of the computer. Chief among these is the operating system—also called the control program, executive, or supervisor—which schedules the execution of other programs, allocates system resources, and controls input and output operations. Processing programs are those whose execution is controlled by the operating system. Language translators decode source programs, written in a programming languageprogramming language,
syntax, grammar, and symbols or words used to give instructions to a computer. Development of Low-Level Languages

All computers operate by following machine language programs, a long sequence of instructions called machine code that is
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, and produce object programs, which are in machine language and can be understood by the computer. These include assemblers, which translate symbolic languages that have a one-to-one relationship with machine language; compilers, which translate an algorithmic- or procedural-language program into a machine-language program to be executed at a later time; and interpreters, which translate source-language statements into object-language statements for immediate execution. Other processing programs are service or utility programs, such as those that "dump" computer memory to external storage for safekeeping and those that enable the programmer to "trace" program execution, and application programs, which perform business and scientific functions, such as payroll processing, accounts payable and receivable posting, word processing, and simulation of environmental conditions.


See F. Maddix and G. Morgan, Systems Software: An Introduction to Language Processors and Operating Systems (1989).

computer program

computer program

Instructions for the computer to follow. The terms "program," "software" and "application" are all computer programs. See software and instruction.