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What is Computer Science? - Definition & Fields

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  • 0:04 What Is a Computer?
  • 1:01 What Is Computer Science?
  • 3:08 Trends
  • 4:02 Branches
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha is currently an Information Technology Specialist and a EdD student at the University of Delaware.

Computer science is a branch of science and technology that encompasses all aspects of a computer system including computer software, hardware, and networking. In this lesson, we will learn about it in more detail.

What is a Computer?

Katie is in the ninth grade and is already interested in computers and computer games. Katie's friend just got into college and was considering a computer science major, and Katie wanted to understand what exactly computer science was.

Katie already knew that:

  • Computers are man-made tools.
  • Computers are programmed to automatically perform a set of actions and produce the desired outcome or results.
  • Computers can store large amounts of data and perform complex mathematical calculations.

The earliest device that was similar to the modern day computer used the same mechanism as music boxes of today; just winding a string would produce a sequence of actions that seemed to happen by magic - doors that opened and figures that moved by themselves!

But what is computer science? Is it just building computers? Katie and her mother visited one of the universities near Katie's home and met with the course adviser for more details.

What is Computer Science?

Katie met with a few professors where she learned a lot of basic information. They explained that computer science is the study of the hardware, software, networking, and all the processes that fall under the umbrella of giving life to a machine to enable it to perform complicated tasks and actions. They recommended that Katie take a beginning computer science course when she went to college to get a better feel for it.

This university visit was a turning point for Katie. In a few years, she graduated high school, entered college, and enrolled in Computer Science 101, just as those old professors suggested! There she studied computer processes and how data or information is stored, described, analyzed, and applied.

The algorithms, or methods that enable a computing machine to transform information and automate tasks, draw from different branches of science, so Katie made sure to enroll in mathematics and engineering classes too.

In lectures, she learned that computer science helps us in a variety of fields and in general human welfare and endeavors.

In environmental science, for example, computer programs and models help us to predict and learn more about natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. Other programs can map the history of climate change that help us track past patterns and better understand present ones.

In health and medicine, doctors and nurses are relying more and more on computers to provide accurate diagnostics, administer treatment plans, and monitor the health of patients. Computerized equipment such as pacemakers help patients with heart problems, and CT scanners use computers and X-ray machines to see the inside of a human body and diagnose potential health problems.

Computer science has been instrumental in general human welfare. For example, computer models help in studying the spread and control of epidemics, make bionic limbs, and even perform remote virtual surgery without the need for the doctor to be physically present right next to the patient. We have indeed come a long way since the magical music box computers of the olden days!

As a sophomore, Katie was taken to the computer science lab where she was able to interact with many different kinds of computer systems and robots. Katie was excited to learn that today's computer systems have evolved to become more interactive with people. Katie saw a working example of Siri on the iPhone and Cortana on the Windows phone, where Katie could ask the computerized voice any question and the phone would talk back in a human voice!

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