Main article: History of computer science
The history of computer science predates the invention of the modern digital computer. Prior to the 1920s, the term computer referred to a human clerk who performed calculations. Early researchers in what came to be called computer science, such as Kurt Gödel, Alonzo Church, and Alan Turing, were interested in the question of computability: what things can be computed by a human clerk who simply follows a list of instructions with paper and pencil, for as long as necessary, and without ingenuity or insight? Part of the motivation for this work was the desire to develop computing machines that could automate the often tedious and error-prone work of a human computer.
During the 1940s, as newer and more powerful computing machines were developed, the term computer came to refer to the machines rather than their human predecessors. As it became clear that computers could be used for more than just mathematical calculations, the field of computer science broadened to study computation in general. Computer science began to be established as a distinct academic discipline in the 1960s, with the creation of the first computer science departments and degree programs.
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Despite its relatively short history as a formal academic discipline, computer science has made a number of fundamental contributions to science and society. These include:
* A formal definition of computation and computability, and proof that there are computationally unsolvable and intractable problems.
* The concept of a programming language, a tool for the precise expression of methodological information at various levels of abstraction
* Revolutionary technologies such as general-purpose computers, the Internet, digital signatures, electronic commerce, and search engines;
* The enabling of new types of scientific research, such as computational physics and computational chemistry.
Relationship with other fields
Main article: Diversity of computer science
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Despite its name, computer science rarely involves the study of computers themselves. In fact, the renowned computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra is often quoted as saying, "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." The design and deployment of computers and computer systems is generally considered the province of disciplines other than computer science. For example, the study of computer hardware is usually considered part of computer engineering, while the study of commercial computer systems and their deployment is often called information technology or information systems. Computer science is sometimes criticized as being insufficiently scientific, a view espoused in the statement "Science is to computer science as hydrodynamics is to plumbing" credited to Stan Kelly-Bootle and others. However, there has been much cross-fertilization of ideas between the various computer-related disciplines. Computer science research has also often crossed into other disciplines, such as artificial intelligence, cognitive science, physics (see quantum computing), and linguistics.
Computer science is considered by some to have a much closer relationship with mathematics than many scientific disciplines. Early computer science was strongly influenced by the work of mathematicians such as Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing, and there continues to be a useful interchange of ideas between the two fields in areas such as mathematical logic, category theory, domain theory, and algebra.
The relationship between computer science and software engineering is a contentious issue, which is further muddied by disputes over what the term "software engineering" means, and how computer science is defined. Some people believe that software engineering is a subset of computer science. Others, taking a cue from the relationship between other engineering and science disciplines, believe that the principle focus of computer science is studying the properties of computation in general, while the principle focus of software engineering is the design of specific computations to achieve practical goals, making them different disciplines. This view is promulgated by (among others) David Parnas. Still others maintain that sof
tware cannot be engineered at all.
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