A software calculator is a calculator that has been implemented as a software program] rather than as a physical hardware device.
As a calculator, rather than a computer, they usually:
Software calculators are available for many different platforms, and they can be:
Some high end software packages provide calculator-like interface to enter data. Such interface may contain on-screen calculator buttons and also support basic arithmetic operations that can be performed before entering the calculated value into the system. They are common in cases when the entering personal must make some decisions while entering the data (add 20 %, for instance) and traditionally used calculators at this step of the work flow.
Calculator function can also be added to the search engine of web browser.
Computers as we know them today first emerged in the 1940s and 1950s. The software that they ran was naturally used to perform calculations, but it was specially designed for a substantial application that was not limited to simple calculations.
Software specifically to perform calculations as its main purpose was first written in the 1960s, and the first software package for general calculations to obtain widespread use was released in 1978. This was VisiCalc and it was called an interactive visible calculator, but it was actually a spreadsheet, and these are now not normally known simply as calculators.
Calculators have been used since ancient times and until the advent of software calculators they were physical, hardware machines. The most recent hardware calculators are electronic hand-held devices with buttons for digits and operations, and a small window for inputs and results. The first software calculators imitated these hardware calculators by implementing the same functionality with mouse-operated, rather than finger-operated, buttons. Such software calculators first emerged in the 1980s as part of the Windows operating system.
Some software calculators directly simulate one of the hardware calculators, by presenting an image that looks like the calculator, and by providing the same functionality.
Simulating hardware calculator may be easy to understand and initially look attractive. However this interface is not very convenient to perform more complex calculations; historically it has been adapted to constrained devices that only have a single line numeric display and very limited computing power. High end hardware calculators that exist till these days use the similar approach as found in the programming languages: the expression is received as a string of symbols. It can contain different operations and parentheses, so the calculator must respect the intended order of operations. Advanced calculators also often provide more than one line to see multiple values at time. Such calculators can also be easily simulated with computer, while the expression parser is not so straightforward to write. Many programming languages (Basic, Python) as well as database engines (like PostgreSQL) provide such calculator as part of their command line interface. The Unix version released in 1979, V7 Unix, contained a command-line calculator as well.
There is now a very wide range of software calculators, and searching the internet produces very large numbers of programs that are called calculators. The results include numerical calculators that apply arithmetic operations or mathematical functions to numbers, and that produce numerical results or graphs of numerical functions, plus some non-numerical tools and games that are also called calculators. Many of the results are calculators that don’t imitate or simulate hardware calculators, but that take advantage of the greater power of computer software to implement alternative types of calculator.
Spreadsheets, computer algebra systems and databases are not normally called calculators, while they may share some similar features.
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