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Hardware – definition and meaning

Hardware refers to a physical component of any computer or telecommunications system. It is an item we manufacture as well as fasteners and fittings that the construction industry uses. The term also refers to machinery, tools, and other durable equipment.

For example, high-tech military hardware means high-tech military equipment such as guided missiles or drones.

The term contrasts with software. Software includes all the instruction and codes, i.e., programs, within a computer. In fact, without software, a computer has no use.

A hardware store sells articles for the garden and house such as nails, tools, pans, etc.

According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, the term refers to:

“1. Tools, machinery, and other durable equipment. 2. Tools, implements, and other items used in home life and activities such as gardening.”

“3. The machines, wiring, and other physical components of a computer or other electronic system.”

Hardware - definition and examples
The term ‘hardware’ has many different meanings, depending on the situation. However, all the meanings have something in common. They all refer to a physical item, such as a tool, machinery, or a piece of equipment.

Computer hardware

In the world of IT, the term refers to the physical components or parts of a computer. For example, the keyboard, graphics and sound cards, motherboard, and monitor are physical items that make up a computer.

The software directs the components to execute a command or instruction. A usable computing system consists of a combination of software and hardware forms.

The term also applies to telecommunications equipment and other electronic devices.

Webopedia says the following regarding the term when talking about computers:

“Refers to objects that you can actually touch, like disks, disk drives, display screens, keyboards, printers, boards, and chips.”

Etymology of ‘hardware’

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and phrases and how they have evolved over time. People who specialize in etymology are etymologists.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term first emerged in the English language in the mid-fifteenth century. At the time, in England, the word meant ‘small metal goods.’ It came from the adjective Hard and the noun Ware.

The term ‘hardware store’ dates back to 1789. In 1947, hardware acquired the meaning of ‘physical components of a computer.’

Video – Hardware basics

This CTE Skills video talks about the physical components of a computer. The video is ideal for people who are not computer savvy, i.e., technophobes. People who are computer savvy have a thorough practical knowledge of computers.