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Software, Firmware and Hardware

May 21st Fact-of-the-Day

The characteristics of early electronic equipment were determined by hardware. Hardware is relatively difficult to change, so equipment was more often replaced than upgraded to obtain new capabilities. Software gets it name from that fact it can be easily changed. Nowadays someone buys a computer that has certain capabilities, but those capabilities are largely determined by software that can be easily changed. Firmware lies between hardware and software in that it can be changed, but not as easily as software. Many characteristics of modern radio equipment are determined by software or firmware. That is great advantage, because radios purchased today can have new capabilities in the future that haven't been developed or even invented yet, but there is a downside. Just as universal tools that can be changed to do different tasks are rarely as good as specialized tools, electronic equipment that can be easily changed have less performance than is possible. For example, desktop computers could perform more than 1000 times faster while consuming 1000 times less energy if their designs were fixed in hardware. ©2005 Martek International All rights reserved.

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