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System programming involves designing and writing computer programs that allow the computer hardware to interface with the programmer and the user, leading to the effective execution of application software on the computer system. Typical system programs include the operating system and firmware, programming tools such as compilers, assemblers, I/O routines, interpreters, scheduler, loaders and linkers as well as the runtime libraries of the computer programming languages.
System programming is an essential and important foundation in any computer’s application development, and always evolving to accommodate changes in the computer hardware. This kind of programming requires some level of hardware knowledge and is machine dependent; the system programmer must therefore know the intended hardware on which the software is required to operate.
Additionally, the programmer may make some assumptions on the hardware and other system components. The software is usually written in a low-level programming language which is able to operate efficiently in a resource-constrained environment, and with little runtime overhead using a small library, or none at all. The low-level language enables direct control over memory access and allows the program to be written directly in an assembly language. The majority of programs are written using assembly languages such as C, C++ and C#.
System programming leads to the development of computer system software that manages and controls the computer operations. The low-level codes are very close to the hardware level and deal with things such as registers and memory allocations. The system programs or system software coordinates data transfer across the various components and deals with the compiling, linking, starting and stopping of programs, reading from files as well as writing to files.
The system programming enhances or extends the functions of an operating system and may comprise components such as drivers, utilities and updates. They enable efficient management of hardware resources such as memory, file access, I/O operations, device management and process management such as process administration and multi-tasking. An example is an operating system, which usually acts as the interface between the user, the application software, and computer hardware. The OS provides an environment that enables users to execute other programs efficiently. Comprising of a set of system programs, the operating system functions include storage management, file handling, memory management, CPU and device scheduling and management, error handling, process control and more.