Who invented Computer Software? (Invention Timeline Explained)

The computer is one of the most valuable inventions of the modern era, as without the invention of the computer, so many other innovations of the modern age are tossed out the window. To keep a computer efficient and productive, it needs the right kind of software.

While the invention of the computer is interesting enough, what about computer software? Here’s a quick timeline talking about the invention and development of computer software over the years!

Who invented computer software?

When it comes to the invention of computer software, the interesting thing is that the theory of computer software was started by two people. In this case Ada Lovelace is credited as the inventor of computer software, having developed programs for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

Computer software’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ada Lovelace
    Primary inventor of computer software

    The Analytical Engine of her friend and fellow inventor Charles Babbage forms the bases for Ada Lovelace’s computer programs.

  • Alan Turing
    Developed the first proper theory for software

    In 1935, Alan Turing’s theory of software led to the development of software engineering and computer science.

  • Tom Kilburn
    Wrote the first software to be stored electronically in a computer

    The Manchester Baby computer had the very first electronically stored software written by Tom Kilburn. Google credits this particular moment as the birth of software.

  • John Backus
    Developers of FORTRAN

    John Backus and his team in IBM developed the first software programming language independent of a computer called FORTRAN in the 1950s.

When was computer software invented?

Computer software was first developed by Ada Lovelace for the Babbage Analytical Engine in 1834. The Analytical Engine itself was not built during that time, though Ada Lovelace’s contributions can’t be understated.

A brief history of computer software

The fascinating thing about computer software is how much of it was started in theory, and it took many years before it was actually put into practice. When Charles Babbage developed the plans for the Analytical Engine, his good friend Ada Lovelace developed what would be known as computer software for the theoretical device. Considering the level of technology in 1834, it’s understandable that there wasn’t too much new ground for computer software.

The next big step came in the 1930s, when Alan Turing started to devise principles behind the computer, namely with software and computer science. It was Turing’s work that started the avalanche of progress for computer software. During the 1940s, computer software was primarily written in binary code for large, mainframe computers.

In 1948, the Manchester Baby computer had its very first program run successfully. Thanks to Tom Kilburn, the Manchester Baby’s first computer software launched without issues. This piece of software is widely regarded by companies such as Google as the birth of modern software as we know it.

Afterward, the first software programming language was developed by John Backus and his team over at IBM. FORTRAN was developed in the 1950s, and was so successful that succeeding models of major manufacturers in the 1960s all had FORTRAN as the initial software.

Software would have legal issues when it came to bundling software with hardware, but that didn’t stop computer software from evolving. Eventually, computer software has grown to become an indispensable part of modern society.

The computer software timeline

  1. 1834
    Development of computer software for the Analytical Engine

    Ada Lovelace helps Charles Babbage develop software for his Analytical Engine

  2. 1935
    Development of computer science

    Alan Turing’s development of computer science leads to the evolution of software engineering.

  3. 1948
    The Manchester Baby software

    The very first time computer software was executed successfully while in the electronic memory of a computer was 1948, courtesy of Tom Kilburn and the Manchester Baby.

  4. 1950s
    John Backus

    The IBM team of John Backus develops FORTRAN, the first independent programming software. It was so popular, the machines that came out after started using FORTRAN regularly.

Where was computer software invented?

The first computer software was theorized and developed by Ada Lovelace for the Analytical Engine in England.

The importance of computer software

  • An integral part of modern computers

    There’s no way computers would function as well as they do in the modern age without the help of top-quality computer software. It’s hard to imagine any computer running well without the necessary software to support it.

  • One of the great frontiers of modern progress

    The fantastic thing about computer software is how varied it can be compared to so many other inventions. Even now, companies are constantly developing custom software and pushing the envelope. The current level of business software for computers is on the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to discover!

  • Computer software can make or break a business

    Without the right kind of software offering efficiency and productivity to businesses, it would be nearly impossible for a company to flourish in today’s modern world. The use of computer software can undoubtedly make or break a business, as everyone relies on software these days.

  • A bright future for computer software

    Computer software is the kind of thing that’s only limited to human creativity. As the hardware advances, so too does the software. In fact, the capacity for computer software to make progress trumps hardware, as it’s not restricted in the same way. 

Computer software by the numbers

  • 2The primary categories of software are application and system software. That said, when you start to get into the specifics, the number would likely balloon into the hundreds.
  • 262,144Part of the formula used by the first piece of computer software on the Manchester Baby. The first piece of software calculated the highest factor of the integer 2^18 = 262,144.
  • 700There are over 700 coding languages. Code is the very definition of software, and it uses the various programming languages to accomplish all sorts of digital tasks.
  • 16The average percentage of growth the field of computer science experiences every year. It might not seem like much, but this percentage of growth is higher than the usual you might see with other fields.

Five facts about computer software

  • The spark of innovation

    What’s interesting about software developers is that most of them are self-taught. While many eventually earn a degree in software development, their spark of innovation started much earlier in life!

  • The favored drink

    When it comes to the software developer’s favorite beverage, it’s almost always coffee. Coffee tends to be the creative fuel many software developers need to get the job done.

  • To the moon

    Margaret Hamilton and her team developed the software responsible for taking Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon’s surface. Crazy enough, that type of software is considered extremely primitive compared to modern software that keeps a simple smartphone in check.

  • The origin of the word “bug”

    These days, everyone knows the term bug as a glitch in modern software. Believe it or not, Thomas Edison was known to use bug as a term for technical issues. It wasn’t until over 70 years later when the term started to grow in popularity.

  • The happiest industry

    Job satisfaction is a crucial part of being a software developer, and the happiest industry as far as computer software goes would be the world of gaming. While not without its issues, it’s still undoubtedly the best place for software developers to strut their stuff.

FAQ about computer software

  • What is the most frequently used computer software in the world?

    The most commonly used software is Microsoft Excel, and for good reason. It’s undoubtedly one of the most useful pieces of software out there, capable of accomplishing quite a bit for individuals and businesses alike. That said, there was a time when Zoom overtook Excel as the most used software, which was understandable due to the pandemic.

  • What exactly is the difference between hardware and software?

    Typically, the physical components of a system would be the hardware side of things. This can include the CPU, the disk drive, the motherboard, and much more. Software is what occurs in the digital side of things, running processes within the operating system. You could technically purchase physical software in the form of CDs, however.

  • What’s the most crucial type of software for computers?

    While every type of software is valuable in its own right, system software would be the most integral part as far as software goes. Without system software, the computer won’t be able to run or function as intended. The operating system (Windows, etc) is the best example of system software.

  • Can anyone learn software development?

    The best thing about computer software is that anyone can pick it up and learn a thing or two. There are even software platforms out there that make software development easier! It’s the reason why there are many more software developers today compared to many years ago. It takes far less know-how to develop software due to the development platform’s ease of use.

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