What is the difference between computer hardware, software, and general engineering?

By simonkatich
Jul 9, 2010
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  1. Just in case the question isn't clear.....
    What is the difference between

    Computer Engineering
    Computer Hardware Engineering
    and
    Computer Software Engineering?
  2. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    Generally, they mean whatever you say they mean.. They are what those engineers do. You will find different definitions all over the place, including different ones in different colleges of engineering.
  3. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,026   +221

    Engineering is an approach to solving problems and delivering a solution
    My favorite example is Kelly Johnson @ lockheed aircraft (which see): give him a requirements spec and he would deliver an aircraft that fulfilled it.

    Hardware vs Software differs in the background necessary to 'solve problems' in each arena.

    Assuming you are restricting the subject to computers, Hardware may still have many sub-areas
    • processor design
    • buss design
    • I/O interface design (eg USB, Video, Networking)
    Software does too
    • Operating Systems design
    • Application design
    • Computer Language development (eg Perl, PHP, Java, C++)
    • Gaming
  4. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 4,487   +73

    These are old titles / roles in IT. Today Computer Engineer as been replaced with a Desktop Engineer (this person role would be for creating software packages for imaging for deployment role outs in AD enterprise environment)

    Software Engineer (Software Programmer, Developer)
    Hardware Engineer (Systems Management of Server Farms Designs)

    The word computer was use years ago, today they focus on what you're role is.
  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,026   +221

    There are TWO job title name-spaces in the industry:
    1. functional
      manager, developer, quality control, sales support
    2. salary administration
      where you see prefixes like entry level xxx, jr xxx, senior xxx, consulting xxx
    the latter names fit some job description in the HR office and have specific salary ranges attached to them.
    RARELY do such titles match the job skills or functions being performed.

    One can not get a degree in "Desktop Engineering" nor even "Package Engineering",
    while a great many colleges offer Computer Science or Computer Engineering degrees.
  6. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 4,487   +73

    Well things have change much since 1998. Title roles have completely changed. Still not standard buy normal channels.
  7. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    Right, Tipstir

    A useless exercise, really. for college work papers only, I suspect... and for the ego mill.
  8. bobcat

    bobcat TechSpot Paladin Posts: 688   +67

    And now that the theoretical definitions have been given, I’ll supply the practical guidelines:

    Those parts of the system that you can hit with a hammer (not advised) are called hardware; those program instructions that you can only curse at are called software.
  9. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 8,280   +152

    Ummm... No, there really are standard definitions. Just refer to US Dept. of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics web site for job descriptions :)
    A Computer engineer would be the general term for either hardware or software engineering.

    @tipstir
    Desktop Engineer???? I haven't heard that one before

    @More generally, from personal knowledge and experience, I received both my BS ('74) and MS ('77) in Comp Sci from Northwestern University. Both in the 70's when I attended Northwestern as well as now, academia and industry still describe those positions with pretty much the same titles then as now, including Software Engineer which implies an emphasis on "Computer" Software Engineering.

    /* edit */
    • A quick google seems to indicate "Desktop Engineer" emphasizes more of a system integration and support position/title?
    • I think Hardware and Software engineer titles tend more to system research and/or development
    IMHO: I still find Hardware and Software Engineering titles both fairly common industry titles

    /* edit 2*/
    And @bobcat. LOL :haha:. Yes, I also like your very practical descriptions :p


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