The Editors and Readers of COMPUTE!
Files And Programs
What is a file, and what is the difference between a program and a file? When I try to erase a program on disk, my disk drive sometimes gives me a FILE NOT FOUND message.
A file is any collection of data (information) stored permanently on disk or tape, or temporarily in the computer's memory. In many cases, a computer file is the electronic equivalent of a manila file folder: It stores data you create with a computer. Word processing programs store words in files, spreadsheets make files containing numbers, and so on. In that sense, a file may seem very different from a program, which is a set of instructions the computer can load into memory and run. But programs are just a special kind of data-letters, numbers, and other symbols arranged in a pattern the computer understands. Thus, a program stored on disk is a file containing computer instructions rather than some other kind of data. When the disk drive signals FILE NOT FOUND, file is used in a general sense that includes programs along with other kinds of data.
Although these broad definitions apply to all computers, be alert for additional, narrower meanings that apply only to your system or in specific situations. For instance, opening a file to a printer usually means you are opening a communications channel to that device. In Commodore disk parlance, a program file is any file with a certain format (different from sequential or relative format), and so on. When in doubt, consult the user's guide for your equipment and pay close attention to the context in which the word is used.