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 instructions 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.”

As technology advances, computer hardware has become increasingly complex, incorporating sophisticated components like solid-state drives (SSDs) and advanced microprocessors that enhance computing power and efficiency.

Moreover, the production and disposal of electronic hardware pose significant environmental challenges, leading to an increased emphasis on recycling and sustainable design practices in the tech industry

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.’

‘Hardware’ compound phrases

A compound phrase is a term consisting or two or more words. There are many compound phrases in the English language containing the word ‘hardware.’ Let’s have a look at some of them:

  • Hardware Acceleration

Using computer hardware specifically to perform some functions more efficiently than possible in software. As in:

“Enabling hardware acceleration can significantly improve video playback quality.”

  • Networking Hardware

Physical devices required to establish and maintain network connections. For example:

“Upgrading our networking hardware has increased our internet speeds and reliability.”

  • Hardware Tools

Manual devices used for physical tasks. For instance:

“He stocked his workshop with an assortment of hardware tools for woodworking.”

  • Hardware Failure

A malfunction within the physical components of a machine. As in:

“Data loss can often result from unexpected hardware failure.”

  • Hardware Upgrade

The process of improving a system’s physical components. For example:

“To play the latest games, you might need a hardware upgrade for your computer.”

Video What is Hardware?

This video, from our sister channel on YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what ‘Hardware’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.