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Set of ordered instructions that enable a computer to carry out a specific task. A program is prepared by first formulating the task and then expressing it in an appropriate programming language. Programmers may work in machine language or in assembly languages. But most applications programmers use one of the high-level languages (such as BASIC or C++) or fourth-generation languages that more closely resemble human communication. Other programs then translate the instructions into machine language for the computer to use. Programs are stored on permanent media (such as a hard disk), and loaded into RAM to be executed by the computer's processor, which executes each instruction in the program, one at a time. Programs are often divided into applications and system programs. Applications perform tasks such as word processing, database functions, or accessing the Internet. System programs control the functioning of the computer itself; an operating system is a very large program that controls the operations of the computer, the transfer of files, and the processing of other programs.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on program, computer, visit Britannica.com.
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