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system and hardware

Prior to the advent of digital computers, the electronics and other engineering disciplines used the terms system and hardware as they are still commonly used today. However, with the arrival of digital computers on the scene and the development of software engineering as a separate discipline, it was often necessary to distinguish among engineered hardware artifacts, software artifacts, and the combined artifacts.

programmable hardware artifact, or machine, that lacks its computer program is impotent; even as a software artifact, or program, is equally impotent unless it can be used to alter the sequential states of a suitable (hardware) machine. However, a hardware machine and its programming can be designed to perform an almost illimitable number of abstract and physical tasks. Within the computer and software engineering disciplines (and, often, other engineering disciplines, such as communications), then, the terms hardware, software, and system came to distinguish between the hardware that runs a computer program, the software, and the hardware device complete with its program.

The hardware engineer or architect deals (more or less) exclusively with the hardware device; the software engineer or architect deals (more or less) exclusively with the program; and the systems engineer or systems architect is responsible for seeing that the programming is capable of properly running within the hardware device, and that the system composed of the two entities is capable of properly interacting with its external environment, especially the user, and performing its intended function