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Computer science


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



In practice, computer science includes a variety of topics relating to computers , which range from the abstract analysis of algorithms , formal grammars , etc. to more concrete subjects like programming languages , software, and computer hardware. As ascientific discipline, it differs significantly from and is often confused with mathematics , programming , software engineering , and computer engineering , although there is some degree of overlap with these and other fields.

Edsger Dijkstra is quoted as saying:

"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 thereis significantly less on the computer scientist's plate than on the physicist's: younger it may be, but it has had a far moreintense upbringing!"

The Church-Turing thesis states that all known kinds of reasonable paradigms of computation are essentially equivalent in what they cando, although they vary in time and space efficiency. The thesis is not a mathematical theorem that can be proven, but a statementbased on empirical observation that two distinct computational schemes do in fact have the same computational power. This thesisis a fundamental principle of computer science.

Most research in computer science has been related to vonNeumann computers or Turing machines (computers that do one small,deterministic task at a time). These models resemble most real computers in use today. Computer scientists also study other kindsof machines, some practical (like parallel machines) and sometheoretical (like random , oracle , and quantum machines).

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

Computer science has roots in electricalengineering , mathematics and linguistics . In the last third of the 20th century computer science has become recognized as a distinct discipline and has developed its own methods and terminology.

The first computer science department in the United States was foundedat 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 abranch of mathematics , and not a separate department. Cambridge claims tohave the world's oldest taught qualification in computing. Most universities today have specific departments devoted to computerscience.

The highest honor in computer science is the Turing Award .

Related fields

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

Debate over name

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

See list of computer scientists for manymore notables.

See also

External links

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