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The term software was coined in 195x. And it was an opposite to the term hardware, the physical part of a computer system, which is tangible. But where does the term hardware come from (from which of the meanings was it derived: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hardware)? Was it transferred from one of those meanings in English or maybe it was borrowed from another language?

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  • View the Babbage machine at the Computer Museum in California and you will understand why it's called "hardware".
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 12, 2015 at 12:15
  • This is "hardware".
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 8, 2018 at 1:23

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From EtymologyOnline:

mid-15c., "small metal goods," from hard + ware (n.). In the sense of "physical components of a computer" it dates from 1947. Hardware store attested by 1789.

I can't find anything else that goes in to more detail. Seems to me like in a computer sense, the term 'hardware' was simply borrowed.

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  • I saw this entry, but I was confused which year should I consider: 1947 or 1789, as well as whether the mid-15c. means mid. 15th century?. Hardware store attested by 1789. - does it mean it came to usage in 1789? Besides it doesn't answer from which meaning it was derived (if there is such information at all).
    – static
    May 19, 2014 at 19:19
  • The OED has, from a 1914 Vocab. of Criminal Slang: "Hardware,..weapons; knives; razors; tools and paraphernalia used by safe-crackers [etc.]." And they also have as early as 1865, a number of citations of weapons being referred to as hardware by cowboys and members of the military forces. I suspect these meanings are where it originated. May 19, 2014 at 19:24
  • @static: all we have are dated examples in print. No one really knows how much people actually spoke the word. So an 'attestation' means the word existed at or before the date printed. Or to infer further, it was popular enough so that finally it was used in print as earlier as 1789, possibly earlier.
    – Mitch
    May 19, 2014 at 20:05
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    The OED has from 1440 "All maner nayles, arowhedes, and all other hardware". Hence the sense of hardware as small metal goods was medieval in origin, as the quote above says. The OED points to numerous extended meanings for other metal things, not only weapons and military equipment, but also medals and jewelry. The extension to computers is unsurprising.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 28, 2022 at 10:51
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'Hard' means a physical entity, something which we can see and hold and has actual mass. 'Ware' means commodity. Thus the word 'Hardware'

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    – Community Bot
    Feb 28, 2022 at 13:28
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My interpretation as a computer enthusiast is that 'software' is named so due to its property to have its behaviour changed through reprogramming, whereas 'hardware' must be physically modified to achieve a change in behaviour (for instance, soldering new components).
The terms "soft" and "hard" would have been chosen by analogy to soft or hard materials that can easily or hardly be given a new shape.

As for the "ware" part of the word, it could have been derived from the "dish" meaning of that word. I'm not sure of that, though.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Feb 28, 2022 at 10:06
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I'm not a Computer Scientist so attempt at an explanation may leave you more confused. A computer, like a desktop or laptop, is essentially comprised of 2 "mechamisms." Hardware and Software. Hardware all the tangible compoments you can hold in your hand and feel it has weight. Software is programs that direct how the hardware components to function, along with the users inputs. A computer or laptop with an Operating System is kind of just a paperweight. It would be a paper weight that made you look busy, tho'.

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  • The question shows an understanding of the meaning of the terms and asks for the origin / source / history of the use of the word hardware to refer to the tangible components of computing machinery. Jul 9, 2018 at 9:09
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The term "hardware" refers to personal material objects. Could be that the word was declined from the term "hoard ware" where the personal ownership was the primary meaning. This was the equipment that we used and needed to survive difficult times.

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