The word program is used in two ways: to describe individual instructions, or source code, created by the programmer, and to describe an e...
The word program is used in two ways: to describe individual instructions, or source code, created by the programmer, and to describe an entire piece of executable software. This distinction can cause enormous confusion, so we will try to distinguish between the source code on one hand, and the executable on the other.
New Term: A program can be defined as either a set of written instructions created by a programmer or an executable piece of software.
Source code can be turned into an executable program in two ways: Interpreters translate the source code into computer instructions, and the computer acts on those instructions immediately. Alternatively, compilers translate source code into a program, which you can run at a later time. While interpreters are easier to work with, most serious programming is done with compilers because compiled code runs much faster. C++ is a compiled language.
The problems programmers are asked to solve have been changing. Twenty years ago, programs were created to manage large amounts of raw data. The people writing the code and the people using the program were all computer professionals. Today, computers are in use by far more people, and most know very little about how computers and programs work. Computers are tools used by people who are more interested in solving their business problems than struggling with the computer.
Ironically, in order to become easier to use for this new audience, programs have become far more sophisticated. Gone are the days when users typed in cryptic commands at esoteric prompts, only to see a stream of raw data. Today's programs use sophisticated "user-friendly interfaces," involving multiple windows, menus, dialog boxes, and the myriad of metaphors with which we've all become familiar. The programs written to support this new approach are far more complex than those written just ten years ago.