Computer Science History (and Branches)

Find out how computer science began and how it has developed into the many branches you see today. Form artificial intelligence, computer graphics, formal methods, wireless computing, and so many disciplines in between, computer science has exploded in the last few decades.

Computer science is the study of the scientific approach to computation. It encompasses theoretical and practical study of the structure and automation of algorithms that underpin the representation, storage, and retrieval of information. Computer science also includes the design of computational systems. This topic is the elementary introduction to computer science or information that all computer scientists should know. When technology is impactful for the world, then the people behind the inventions truly

Computer Science History

The history of computer science began centuries ago. Before the idea of contemporary computer science discipline begins, the roots developed. Developments that took place in the discipline over the years are what we know as computer science. From mechanical inventions to mathematical theories, this progress toward machines and concepts of the computer ensure the development of the significant academic field.

Charles Babbage proposed the idea of mechanically computing tables and numbers. Babbage is the pioneer of computing. He turned his idea into reality and designed a calculator. This calculator used to compute numbers around eight decimal points. After the success of this idea, Babbage took a step ahead and designed a machine that could compute more numbers and it computed around 20 decimal places. In the 1830s, Babbage had planned to create a machine that could perform arithmetical operations using punched cards.

This machine used to store these numbers in different memory units. Sequential control ran the machines at this point. In this system, one function plays out before others. And, the machine had to produce an answer and it did not fail. This machine is an analytical engine. Take note that this machine was the first representation of modern computers.

Great minds in 20th Century Computer Science

Discussing the history of computer science cannot be complete without highlighting the role of Ada Lovelace or Augusta Ada Byron. She is also one of the pioneers of computer programming. Many remember her as a mathematical genius. Lovelace started working with Babbage and soon become the ever designer of a computer algorithm. This computer algorithm had the capability to compute Bernoulli numbers.

Lovelace and her work with Babbage turns out to be a prediction for future computers. These computers were supposed to perform mathematical calculations along with manipulating symbols whether they are mathematical or not. Unfortunately, Lovelace never saw the outcome of her hard work and dedication as an analytical engine did not come into the reality in her lifetime. However, in the beginning of the 1840s, she received recognition and praise for her work.

The Atanasoff-Berry computer was the world’s first ever electronic-digital computer in 1939-1942. Its creator is John V. Atanasoff on the lowa state campus. He was the professor of mathematics and physics and with the help of his student – Clifford Berry, he accomplished this milestone.

Konrad Zuse designed first program-controlled computer in 1941. Moreover, he developed an S2 computing machine which was the first computer that used to control processes. Zuse also designed the first computer for business in 1941 which also become a first commercial computer. Later, in 1946 he developed high-level programming language as well which was known as Plankalkul.

Computer Science Branches

Computer science is considered a combination of computers and sciences in which computer is used as a device to test the complex ideas of science. Following are some of the branches of computer science.

Artificial Intelligence – A New Chapter in Computer Science History

Artificial intelligence is the study of developing systems and algorithms that enable computers to mimic natural learning through information acquisition, reasoning, and self-correcting. Applications of artificial intelligence include self-driving cars and computers that understand speech.


Bioinformatics is a field of study that uses algorithms to study biological data. The field develops mathematical and statistical techniques, as well as software, to understand biological systems such as genetic sequences, cell populations, or protein samples.

Cloud Computing

At its basics, cloud computing is the delivery of servers, databases, storage services, analytics, networking, intelligence, and more computing services over the internet to provide flexible resources, faster innovation, and economies of scale. It is divided into three main models which include hybrid cloud, public cloud, and private cloud. The term can be used to describe the delivery of applications, database storage, compute power and other IT services through the Internet.

Computer Architecture

Computer architecture refers to the creation of a collection of principles and methods that describe the capabilities, arrangement, and utilization of computer systems. In practice, computer architecture involves balancing desired functional and performance goals with cost constraints.

Computer Graphics – Visual Arts and Computer Science History

Graphic is a known field of computer science. The field includes the making of animated motion pictures. It is why this branch is very popular. The discipline covers the topics of data visualization and helps people understand complex data. Graphics also has its own branch called graphics design. The discipline of graphic design is advanced and very important. The field will be especially important in the years to come. Nearly all forms of media today require some sort of graphical input whether it is movies, shows, cartoons, or even video games. Graphic designers help create models, environments and details to help their respected medium come to life.

Computer graphics are images created with computer software. The study of computer graphics is a field of computer science that focuses on techniques for creating and manipulating digital images. It is concerned with the computational foundations of image processing, rather than just aesthetic issues.

Computer Security

Computer security is growing in importance due to the increase in wireless networks and connected devices. This area of focus encompasses protecting systems from theft or damage to hardware, software or electronic data, as well as protecting the provided services from corruption.

Data Management

Data management is a field of computer science that aims to protect and enhance the value of data by governing the full data lifecycle of an enterprise. It includes developing and executing plans, policies, and procedures to manage data as any other valuable resource would be managed.

 Hardware – The Deep Tech of Computer Science History

Computer hardware is a discipline that deals with chips and circuits. The designs in hardware lie in the engineering realm and covers topics like general electrical engineering and chip architecture. Computer hardware consists of PCB or Printed Circuit Boards. This includes and how they are made. PCB are more advanced learning circuits that most students use in order to help them put the right wire, node, resistor, or any other part in its proper place.

Data Mining

Data mining refers to the process of ascertaining patterns and relationships from large data sets. The methodology combines statistics and machine learning to reduce a large data set to a manageable structure, and thereby to glean previously unknown information that was inherent in the data set.

Data Structures

A data structure is a collection of data values, the relationships among them, and the functions or operations that can be applied to the data. Examples include arrays, n-tuples, and lists. An understanding of data structure is important in the study of algorithms and process that retrieve or manipulate data.

Data Visualization

Data visualization is the practice of communicating information by encoding it as objects contained in graphics in order to make it more clear to users. It is one step in data science. Effective data visualization may help users analyze and make deductions from data.


A database is a general term for a structured set of data used to facilitate the storage, retrieval, modification, and deletion of data. A relational database includes schema, tables, and queries organized in a way to support information processes and the retrieval of the data.

Formal Methods – Structure in Computer Science History

Formal methods apply a broad variety of theoretical mathematical and computer science fundamentals to problems in software and hardware specification and verification. These sorts of methods rely on mathematical analysis to contribute to the reliability of the system.

Information Retrieval

Information retrieval act of obtaining specific, relevant information from a collection of information sources.Information retrieval includes searching for information in a document, searching for documents themselves, and also searching for metadata that describe data, and for databases of texts, images or sounds.


The field of networking is related to system and covers the subjects that deal with devices and interconnection.  It is one of the vast disciplines within network designs, dealing with anything from figuring out the links of military installations to laying out home networks. It further includes several practical topics like creating protocols for data transmissions to minimize network traffic. Network science is an academic field which studies complex networks by representing distinct elements as nodes and the connections between the elements as edges. Network science uses theories and methods from many fields including graph theory from mathematics and data mining and information visualization from computer.

Operating Systems

An operating system is a computer program that manages the hardware and software of a computer by coordinating the access to the central processing unit, memory, and storage. The operating system provides the link between the physical components of the computer and the applications that are run by users.

This discipline involves control mechanisms to allow different resources to be coordinated efficiently during program implementation. It includes services like effective organization of distributed computation, resource control strategies and user requests.

Programming Languages

Programming languages are used to implement algorithms for computers to use. Computer programming languages can be differentiated by semantics, the meaning of the symbols used in the language, and syntax, or the order of the symbols. These languages allow computers too quickly and efficiently process large and complex swaths of  information. Covering non-theory areas, programming language is the heart of computer science. It focuses on several areas and optimization is the most important one. Mostly compilers study this branch of computer science to simplify the hand-coding assembly system.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is achieved by coding data into quantum bits that may be in multiple states, as opposed to digital computing which relies on bits being either on or off. The probability of a quantum bit being 0 or 1 is neither 0% nor 100%, unlike traditional bits.

 Software Engineering

Software engineering is a field of study that applies a formal approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software. Computer software engineering practitioners employ systematic and quantifiable approaches to problem-solving with the goal of attaining predictability and precision. The discipline of computer science relates to programming languages and deals with software design implementation. Plus, it also covers subjects like defensive programming that uses codes and extraneous work to ensure systems are protected and correctly used.

Symbolic Computation

Symbolic computation is a field of study that develops algorithms for manipulating mathematical expressions without necessarily trying to evaluate the expression numerically. Overall, symbolic computation focuses on exact solutions to problems, where numerical computation may involve approximate solutions. General methods of accurately and efficiently using computers to solve complex equation from various mathematical models are the central parts of this field. Furthermore, efficiency and effectiveness of multiple approaches to develop high-quality mathematical software is an important component of symbolic computation.

Scientific Computing

Scientific computing is a field of study that applies high performance computing to fields of science to find solutions to problems. It is emerging as a third scientific method, together with observation and theoretical study, used to draw scientific conclusions.

Theory of Computation

The theory of computation uses mathematical and logical techniques to develop models in the field of computer science. The theory of computation tries to determine the fundamental capabilities and limitations of computer systems. The most common model used is the Turing machine.

Wireless Computing

Wireless computing is the study of using radio waves to connect multiple computers over a network, without the need for physical connection wires. Overall, wireless computing addresses the needs of portability and mobility while balancing the requirements of security and reduced interference.


Computer science history points to a few key themes. Firstly, computer science is important to our evolution as a technological race of beings. Secondly, humans use technology more today than ever before. Sure, old technologies like the wheel have been around forever. Still, computers, phones, and television integrate into our lives like no technology we’ve ever seen. Lastly, computer science helps to develop other key industries and fields. If you work in computer science, then you don’t just work in a single field. Computer science history is far from over. The field continues to develop and innovate our lives.

Because of this, we still don’t know what computer science will become. Even today, the field of computer science grows exponentially. Computer science is expanding as we find more uses for its inventiveness. If you we don’t invest in computer science, then we will find ourselves behind. Computer science history teaches us two valuable lessons.

Lessons in Computer Science History

Firstly, the main takeaway after reviewing computer science history is innovation drives progress. The best ideas, while they may be exciting, don’t always manifest into real change right away. Change is slow, and always will be. For example, touch screen technology is not new. However, many didn’t use touch screens until recently. If you don’t know much about computer science history, then you would think touch screen technology is new. However, we know this is not the case. Computer science and its developments take time to show up in the consumer world. Which, conveniently, leads us to our next lesson in computer science history.

Second, computer science changes the working world for the consumer. What does this mean, and why is it important? Many technologies develop in private sectors for specific uses. The internet, for example, works connect scientists together for long distance research. At least, that was its first intention. Now, we see the internet used for shopping and a lot of other things. Change comes to the consumer once industry dictates its utility. Computer science history shows us a heavy reliance on the private sector. All the while, consumers use the internet daily. So, we know change is slow, and impacts industry before consumers.

A Future Theme of Computer Science

Lastly, a key element of computer science is resources. Major projects need proper funding, much of which comes from governmental and private sources. If you support computer science and its innovation, then you must know the importance money plays in its development. A key element to fundraising is advocacy work. Some of this occurs in popular media, like the news. For example, a company might highlight a new research project. Otherwise, advocacy happens behind closed doors. By the time we know about it as consumers, the product is already at launch. Nevertheless, we must support the themes of computer science history in order to help it grow.

David A. Smith at Dave4Math

David Smith (Dave) has a B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics and has enjoyed teaching precalculus, calculus, linear algebra, and number theory at both the junior college and university levels for over 20 years. David is the founder and CEO of Dave4Math.

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