Laurence, I can help a little, still learning a lot myself..Hardware is the actual physical components of your computer unit, the central processing unit (CPU, or in laymans terms the box) comprised of the driver, drives, mouse etc. Software are the various programs you have running on your pc such as windows and microsoft software like word, excel, power point etc etc. Systems software as mentioned by the previous respndents includes windows, the operating system and as far as i knew just sounds like a particular business has their own computer system they use like at the car dealership I work for, we use a system that is called "Voyager" it is supplied by Gateway, we used to use Systime supplied by Kerridge that was accessed via dummy terminals, Voyager is accessed via windows on the pc's we all now have, but it is not run through windows, it wasn't a software disc that was downloaded onto windows, we have a satellite receiving and transmitting broadband and the Voyager, and our accountants in Sydney have the same software and access and a lan line (blue cable like a phone line) links all our pc's together at the dealership. Firmware I think is just another name for a type of software, and how it is distributed like shareware, but I'm not a 100% sure. But the other respondents have answered, apparently it's a cross between software and hardware, go figure. All the best and God bless.