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I see this a lot in the context of computer programs. My original guess was that it stood for something like

"программа операции"

meaning something like operating system (i.e. "ПО=OS"), but it seems to appear in the context of general computer programs, not just operating systems, so I really am not sure.

I tried googling it but found it difficult to find a useful result since it has the same spelling as the obviously very common preposition по.

Thank you very much for your time and help -- I really appreciate it!

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    Small hint: next time try to google a phrase with the word which you need to translate. For example, if you search установка ПО, Google find an article Установка программного обеспечения in Wikipedia. Sometimes it helps. – Dmitriy May 21 '16 at 15:29
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In this context, "ПО" stands for "программное обеспечение", i.e. "software".

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  • Thanks so much! Do you happen to know the etymology behind the term too? The word-for-word translation into English seems kind of strange. – Chill2Macht May 21 '16 at 14:25
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    I don't actually know how it came about. I can only speculate about that. Most computer related terminology -- starting with the word "computer = компьютер" itself -- comes from English, so it had to be either adopted or translated in Russian. In the case of "hardware" and "software" there was no good way to translate them directly. Direct borrowing or transliteration of these two didn't seem to work (phonetically). Since once you have a computer, programs need to be supplied or provided for it, this translation came about. The word "обеспечение" is often used in a similar sense. – zipirovich May 21 '16 at 14:41
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    By the way, in slang direct transliterations of "software" are often used: "софт" (which I like, and it's very common) and even "варез" (which makes me nauseous). – zipirovich May 21 '16 at 14:45
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    The word-for-word translation is strange indeed, when обеспечение is translated as security. Ignore it, it is wrong in most contexts. Other translations as "provision" or "supply" make more sense. It makes it "program provision/supply". The combination of adjective made from a noun and a word обеспечение is quite common in Russian (although it is quite a "bureaucratese"). It means supply of something. – Giedrius May 21 '16 at 20:34
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    In USSR, we used to avoid English calques, so there were "автоматизированная система управления предприятием", "программно-аппаратный комплекс", "программное обеспечение" и "аппаратное обеспечение". These words were introduced by lead IT specialists in paper books in 60th of XX century. Only "программное обеспечение" is still actual. – Nadia Solovyeva May 23 '16 at 5:40

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