Program (machine)

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A program is a list of instructions written in a programming language that is used to control the behavior of a machine, often a computer (in this case it is known as a computer program).

Note that 'program' (not 'programme') is the standard spelling for this sense of the word in all versions of English.

Examples of programs include:

  • The sequence of cards used by a Jacquard loom to produce a given pattern within weaved cloth. Invented in 1801, it used holes in punched cards to represent sewing loom arm movements in order to generate decorative patterns automatically.
  • A file containing a list of instructions to be executed by a computer.

The execution of a program is a series of actions following the instructions it contains. Each instruction produces effects that alter the state of the machine according to its predefined meaning.

While some machines are called programmable, for example a Programmable thermostat or a musical synthesizer, they are in fact just devices which allow their users to select among a fixed set of a variety of options, rather than being controlled by programs written in a language (be it textual, visual or otherwise).