Apr 06 2017

Bits And Bytes – Program 3: How Programs Work

Ah, programs. You’re using one right now, whether you realize it or not. Actually, you’re using several. Probably several dozen at once, and you don’t even know it. The browser you’re viewing this website with, that’s a program. The operating system your computer or mobile device is using is, guess what, a program. The extra software running to tell the time, or to keep you up to date on Facebook, those too are programs. Hell, the server you’re accessing is on its own end running many programs to make this page display to your browser.

Just what IS a program though, and how does all this work? Well, if we go back to the early days of computing, we can take a look at the very basics of a program: in this case, one written in basic. Sure, this is just Microsoft Basic styled programming, but still, it explains the basic logic of how a program works.

Today’s programs are infinitely more complex than this, of course, but the basic logic is there. Program code living in RAM, being executed by the CPU.. other data being stored until needed, or data locked in some form of ROM (back then a chip on the computer, but these days maybe a DVD, or some data online) storage.

In any case, the basic logic has never, and technically can never change – Computers simply have gotten more capable in running programs, so, more complex programs have been written to take advantage of the improved power of computers.

I know to most advanced users this all makes sense, but to a beginner, it helps put things in perspective. Regardless, as always, enjoy episode 3 of Bits and Bytes!

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