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Computer science

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In its most general sense, computer science (CS or compsci) is the study of computation and information processing, both in hardware and in software.



Computer science encomposses a variety of topics relating to computation, ranging from abstract analysis of algorithms and formal grammars, to subjects like programming languages, software, and computer hardware.

Computer scientists study what programs can and cannot do (see computability), how programs can efficiently perform specific tasks (see algorithms and complexity), how programs should store and retrieve specific kinds of information (see data structures and data bases), how programs might behave intelligently (see artificial intelligence), and how programs and people should communicate with each other (see human-computer interaction and user interfaces).

Most research in computer science has focussed on von Neumann computers or Turing machines (computation models that perform one small, deterministic step at a time). These models resemble most real computers in use today. Computer scientists also study other models of computation, including parallel machines and theoretical models such as probabilistic, oracle, and quantum computers.

Edsger Dijkstra said:

"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes."

The renowned physicist Richard Feynman said:

"Computer science is not as old as physics; it lags by a couple of hundred years. However, this does not mean that there is significantly less on the computer scientist's plate than on the physicist's: younger it may be, but it has had a far more intense upbringing!"

Computer science has roots in electrical engineering, mathematics and linguistics. In the last third of the 20th century computer science emerged as a distinct scientific discipline and developed its own methods and terminology. The first computer science department in the United States was founded at Purdue University in 1962. The University of Cambridge in England, among others, taught CS prior to this, however at the time, CS was seen as a branch of mathematics, and not a separate department. Cambridge claims to have the world's oldest taught qualification in computing. Most universities today have specific departments devoted to computer science.

Related fields

Computer science is closely related to a number of fields. These fields overlap considerably, though important differences exist

Debate over name

There is some debate over whether the name of the field should be computer science, computation science, or software science. The first name is the original, traditional name, however it implies that CS studies computers. The second name is more recent, and it implies that CS studies what we do with computers. The third name recognizes that mostly the field studies software. Some view this debate over names as silly. Others see it as important symbolism.

Major fields of importance for computer science

Mathematical foundations

Theoretical computer science


(see also electrical engineering)

Computer systems organization

(see also electrical engineering)


Data and information systems

Computing methodologies

Computer applications

Computing milieux


Prominent pioneers in computer science

The highest honor in computer science is the Turing Award. See list of computer scientists for many more notables.

See also

External links

Wikibooks provides a collection of electronic books on Computer science.

Wikiversity, is developing courses on Computer science.

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