Computer science

Computer science is the study of manipulating, managing, transforming and encoding information.

There are many different areas in computer science. Some areas consider problems in an abstract manner, while some need special machines, called computers.

A person who works with computers will often need mathematics, science, and logic in order to design and work with computers.

Common tasks for a computer scientist

Asking questions

This is so that they can find new and easier ways to do things, and the way to approach problems with this information.

Asking the right question

Computers can do some things easily (for example: simple math, or sorting out a list of names from A-to-Z). But computers cannot answer questions when there is not enough information, or when there is no real answer. Also, computers may take too much time to finish long tasks. For example, it may take too long to find the shortest way through all of the towns in the USA - so instead a computer will try to make a close guess. A computer will answer these simpler questions much faster.

Answering the question

Algorithms are a specific set of instructions or steps on how to complete a task. For example, a computer scientist wants to sort playing cards. There are many ways to sort them - by suits (diamonds, clubs, hearts, and spades) or by numbers (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace). By deciding on a set of steps to sort the cards, the scientist has created an algorithm. The scientist then needs to test whether this algorithm works. This shows how well and how fast the algorithm sorts cards.

A simple but slow algorithm is: drop the cards, pick them up, and check whether they are sorted. If they are not, do it again. This method will work, but it will take a very long time.

A better algorithm is: find the first card with the smallest suit and smallest number (2 of diamonds), and place it at the start. After this, look for the second card, and so on. This algorithm is much faster, and does not need much space. This sorting algorithm is called selection sort.

Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer algorithm in 1843, for a computer that was never finished. Computers began during World War II.[1] Computer science separated from the other sciences during the 1960s and 1970s. Now, computer science has its own methods, and has its own technical terms. It is related to electrical engineering, mathematics, and language science.

Computer science looks at the theoretical parts of computers. Computer engineering looks at the physical parts of computers (hardware). Software engineering looks at the use of computer programs and how to make them.

Parts of computer science

Central math

How an ideal computer works

Computer science at work

What computer science does

Related pages


  1. "A Brief History of Computer Science | World Science Festival". World Science Festival. Retrieved 2018-03-20.