Based on Wiktionary’s entry on software, the term was coined by Paul Niquette in 1953 and intentionally plays off the fact that the physical components of a device are (and were) referred to as hardware.
Turning to the online edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we can take a deep dive into the actual root word, ware, more directly.
Taking the first and last of the provided definitions, we can more or less combine them into a workable statement for our case. “Manufactured articles, products of art or craft” and “an intangible item (such as a service or ability) that is a marketable commodity” can be combined to sum up ‘ware’ as it would apply in ‘software’: “manufactured articles to provide a marketable service.” Software is simply a program, developed to allow people with a specific need to fulfill that need.
As Wiktionary demonstrates in its list of softwares, there is a considerable list of words that play off our determined definition. We’ll review some of the lesser-known ones:
Crapware – This descriptive term (although not as descriptive as the other name for these programs, which uses another four-letter-word for “crap”) describes all the programs that a computer comes pre-loaded with, despite the user having no want or need of them.
Dreamware – Those softwares that haven’t yet been – and may never be – created are referred to as dreamware, as they are still in the stage where they are just something that a developer dreamt up.
Fanware – Some developers continue their coding outside of the professional realm, and many amateurs are very accomplished. These individuals often write code for the benefit of their personal interests, known as fanware.
Foistware – Just like some malware is, many software titles can come bundled together with more desired software and installed alongside it. These titles have been given the name foistware.
Garageware – Despite many of the most famous and successful technologists of our time starting more or less in their garage, this is a derisive term that professionals often use to describe software that doesn’t quite work right or is riddled with errors. The implication is that it was created by total amateurs (you guessed it) in their garage.
Nagware – This is an offshoot of the next software variety, specifically including those programs that interrupt the user with a reminder to register the title. Whether it’s repeated pop-up boxes appearing during use, or even disabling the program for a brief time during use, this kind of software attempts to annoy the user into purchasing the “full” or “premium” version of the program in question.
Trialware – Many software developers, recognizing the effectiveness of a free sample among an audience, will release a limited form of their software to users for no charge. These samples are often confined by a time limit, and many offer just enough functionality to prove its worth enough to entice the user.
There are, again, many more varieties of software that could be added to this list. What other ones have you come across? Let us know in the comments!