What is Computer Science?

I can just see you expecting a very complicated answer to the question, What is Computer Science?

Computer Science
Computer Science

Don't worry, I will try and explain it simple terms so that even my granny can understand it. Well, not that simple, but I will not bore you with complicated formulas and maths or drawings of printed circuit board diagrams.

Ok, enough. So what is computer science?

Computer science is the study of all things computer based. It's usually a degree that you study for at some university or college. I'm not sure how it is in all countries, but where I come from, computer science is quite a broad subject.

It's not just some course that you can quickly complete in a year or so. It can be quite complicated at times. These days computer science is also done on a smaller scale in schools. It could be a n extra subject that the learner takes on.

Some schools has even made this a compulsory subject for high school learners, while others prefer if the learner decides whether he or she will take it or not. It all depends. In my day, this subject was only reserved for a few chosen learners whose grade were more than above average.

I eventually did in house training at the firm where I started, and let me tell you something, it's never to late to start learning about computers. That's exactly what computer science is. It's learning about computers and what they can do.

Some university professors will probably scold me for putting it this simple, but in the end that's all it really is.

Let's have a look at what the different section of what is computer science entail.

Computer science can be divided into two main categories. The theoretical side and practical side of it. The theoretical aspect means just what it says. It's the theory behind computer operation.

Computers basically automate tasks for us. It takes the mundane tasks away from humans, so we can use our superior brains for more interesting stuff. This is quite relevant in the motor industry. Robots have all but replaced the human in the production line.

Robots are much more accurate at welding pieces of metal together than humans and they don't complain of doing it day after day.So, the theoretical aspect, of computer science, explores how we can further automate computational tasks.

Not just automation but also everything that goes behind this such as programming or coding theory, algorithms, data structures and database information systems. Let's discuss each of these in a little more detail.

Programming or coding theory?
We talk about theory here. This is the study of how programming languages work. They do not discuss a specific language, only how it works and what a programming language is. It's the study of how programming languages are classified.

What is Computer Science
Programming language textbooks
Programming language textbooks

A programming language is designed for a reason. For instance, Cobol was written as a business language. It is great for crunching financial information. You don't want to run this language on you PC when you program games, for example.

For games you would probably use C or C++ and maybe assembler for low level stuff. Pascal is designed for scientific applications. I don't want to discuss each and every programming language here, but I hope you get the idea.

Get in the rhythm. No, not that rhythm, the algorithm. Let me try to make this simple. Let's say you have a bunch of random numbers. You want to sort these numbers from lowest to highest numbers.

What is Computer Science - Algorithm
Flowchart Algorithm

You would need an algorithm to sort these numbers and you would use a programming language to achieve this. You can further simplify this algorithm by creating a flow chart that will help you step by step in creating this sorting algorithm.

It would go something like this, find the lowest number and move it to the start. You only need to find this number once. Once sorted, you can continue with the next lowest number. Continue until all numbers are sorted.

I know it's a bit simple, but that's basically what a algorithm is. It's a step by step procedure for calculations and you can use flowcharts to help you with this.

Data Structures
Data structures has to do with how data is organized and stored on computers to make it easier to retrieve or access this data. It goes hand in hand with databases.

It's critical that data be organized and stored correctly in a database for later retrieval. Well, that's exactly what databases do and that's why companies spend big bucks on databases. They want their data well organized and reliable retrieval.

I have already written a whole page on databases. It's called Database Examples. I will discuss how it relates to, what is computer science.

Again, we don't discuss a specific database as such but rather what a database is and how it works. A database is used to store large amounts of data so that it could be retrieved later. The way that a database is designed has a great impact on the performance of retrieving data from it.

This is almost a science on it's own and people are constantly trying to improve the algorithm for storing and retrieving data in a database.

What is computer science - Other topics

Remember that theory is only the study of the concept. It's not the actual physical or practical implementation of it.

That becomes relevant in the practical aspect of what is computer science.

Some other topics in computer science includes, artificial intelligence (Do androids dream of electric sheep?) or AI, Computer architecture (How can computers be improved by design), graphics (How cool you can make a spreadsheet look) and security (Touch my PC and die!).

Practical aspects of what is computer science.
Don't worry, it's not all just boring theory. Computer science also looks at how these concepts could be practically achieved.

Knowing the theory is great, but physically doing it is better. Would you fly with a pilot that has just read a book on aviation and written an exam? No, of course not. Same with computer science.

Most theoretical aspects are also done practically. Again, this is done in a "generic as possible manor".

So, what is computer science, is not an easy and quick answer. There is a lot involved in the subject. You don't have to study it at an university to learn it. You could also get on top of it doing in house training.

A computer science degree, however, is a pretty cool degree to have and it will open a lot of doors for you. But in my humble opinion, nothing beats experience.

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