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What are the Foundations of Computer Science?

Daniel Liden
By Daniel Liden
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computer science is a broad field that primarily deals with the storage, transfer, and manipulation of information. There are several foundations upon which the field of computer science are built. These foundations of computer science include algorithms, programming methodology and languages, data and symbol computation and analysis, and computer elements and hardware.

Algorithms are extremely significant among the foundations of computer science. Most other aspects of computer science rely in some way upon algorithms. Algorithms are finite sets of instructions used to govern the manipulation of data. They are explicitly stated, step-by-step procedures for the handling and processing of data. Algorithms are generally written in the form of instructions or flow-charts instead of in the form of programmed computer code.

At their cores, machines only understand the languages of machines; as such, programming methodology and programming languages are important foundations of computer science. Computer programmers generally convert algorithms—explicit, step-by-step instructions—into languages that the computer can comprehend. Programming languages are artificial languages that computers can interpret to perform various computations. A set of instructions expressed in a programming language is known as a program. C++, Python, and Visual Basic are commonly used programming languages.

It is important that computer scientists be able to apply their data-handling skills to real-world tasks. Data and symbol computation and analysis are topics that are essential practical foundations of computer science. Often, this involves analyzing, sorting, and drawing conclusions from vast amounts of information. This is especially apparent in fields such as computational physics and bioinformatics, in which physical and biological phenomena are observed and analyzed after numerous precise measurements have been taken.

All of this data manipulation, transfer, and storage needs the means and the place to exist and work. That place is in the hardware. Hardware use is among the foundations of computer science because it provides a framework for all other aspects of computer science to operate within. A program could not operate without a hard drive to store it and a processor to run the complex algorithms it contains. Without a physical device to operate, computer science would be a purely theoretical field.

While these foundations of computer science are only a few of the myriad topics covered by the broad field, they are the ones from which most of the rest of the topics in the field begin. They truly are the foundations upon which the entire field is built. Without a basic understanding of these principles, One's ability to fully utilize computers for the processing and manipulation will be incomplete.

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