What is Computer Science? (Historical Summary)

by Dave

What are the different branches and fields of computer science? In this article, I examine this question and explain what computer science is and discuss some of its applications? Find out about the future of computer science and how it changes our lives each day.

What is Computer Science?

Computer science, in simple terms, is the study of computers, computer technology and computational systems. It includes both software and hardware. Unlike computer and electrical engineers, computer scientists mostly deal with software as well as software systems; and this includes their design, theory, development, and application. Curious about what is computer science? Let’s look into the key history of the field.

The diverse field of computer science also includes various engineering activities like the design of computers along with the software and hardware that make up computer systems. Everything from a smartphone to a desktop computer in your office is a product of computer science research and development. Simple processes like the calculator app on your phone requires computer science engineering. Plus, consider the size of your smartphone. Just 25 years ago, mobile phones required their own carrying bag. Now, they fit in the palm of your hand.

Computer science also encompasses theoretical as well as mathematical activities, like the analysis and design of algorithms, performance studies and assessment of systems and their various components by means of complex techniques such as queueing theory, and the timely estimation of both the availability and reliability of systems by probabilistic techniques. 

Different Branches and Fields of the Industry

Multiple disciplines exist in computer science. Likewise, the field is full of branches and various areas of focus. . Note that some fields like computational complexity theory (which heavily explores the core properties of intractable and computational problems), are quite abstract; on the other hand, fields like computer graphics tend to emphasize many real-world visual applications. Both help develop essential technologies required to push human progress forward.

Many other fields in computer science focus on challenges and issues in implementing computation. Programming language, for example, considers a variety of approaches to the description and explanation of computation, and the study of programming investigates different aspects of the use of complex systems and programming languages. 

On the other hand, human–computer interaction often considers the unique challenges in making computations and computers useful, usable as well as universally accessible to humans. As computer systems are usually too complicated or large to allow a single designer to predict success or failure without testing, in most cases experimentation is integrated into the development cycle.

Computer science differs from coding and digital architecture; that being said, the 2 disciplines often overlap heavily in the domain of computer architecture, which is the study and design of computer systems. Rather than talk about the differences, let’s discuss where it all began.

Historical Summary of Computer Science

Computer science is defined as the study of computers. This includes their design, which is referred to as digital architecture. Computer science is also concerned with utility in computations, systems control, and data processing. Computer science involves engineering activities like the design of computers, hardware and the software that build up the computer systems.

The field of study also involves theory and mathematical aspects like design and analysis of algorithms, the study of performance by systems and what they comprise regarding techniques such as queueing theory, estimation of availability and reliability of computer systems based on probabilistic methods.

Designers must predict workability without doing the actual testing and experiments for every part of the development cycle. This is one of the more exhausting parts of the field. Nevertheless, computer science thrives on individuals ready to discover the ins and outs of new technologies and systems.

Subsets of Computer Science

The main subsets of computer science include the architecture which comprises of the hardware design, the integration of the hardware and the software bits to constitute the computer systems. The software is a set of programs that act as instructions to a computer telling it how to execute a given task. The software component is further divided into operating systems, programming languages, software engineering, information systems and databases, artificial intelligence and the computer graphics.

The computer science theory includes numerical analysis and use of computational methods to come up within data structures and computer algorithms. These algorithms range in size and scope. A single stretch of an algorithm’s code can take years to construct. Like a puzzle, computer scientists work to find out how to communicate their needs through digital code. Plus, the hardware dictates what a computer is capable of.

Computer science dates back to 1960 although the electronic digital computer was in existence decades earlier. Computer science has its roots based on electrical engineering and mathematics.

What Makes Computer Science a Scientific Field of Study?

Electrical engineering is meant to give the basic design of circuits on the concept that electrical impulses can come up with arbitrary outputs. The innovation not transistor and the miniaturization of circuits together with the development of optical media that acts as storage for information, electronic and magnetic has led to the development in electrical engineering. Computer science benefits every other field of science. Plus, the humanities can use more quantitate methods thanks to computers. In this way, the field benefits all aspects of research and innovation.

Computer Science as a Language

A huge moment in the history of computer science was the founding of binary logic. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz created binary logic in 1702. Although computers did not exist at this time, his contribution was mathematical. For a system to interpret logic, a very human form of thinking, a numeral system would translate the inputs into numbers. Working as a binary, the numbers 0 and 1 existed as code for the system. Each number would either indicate “on or off” or “true and false” values.

Binary logic, despite its early technical conception, would take more than 100 years to be put to real use. In 1854, George Boole used binary logic to communicate with computer systems in order to achieve mathematical models. Why does binary matter? It’s the language that allows us to use computers to create data. It also is important to the basic functionality of some of our most utilized softwares and networks.

Theory Turns to Practical Applications

Theoretical applications of the field works began in the 1930s which availed the necessary extension used to design an entire machine in 1936. The user’s demands and their usefulness provided the primary drive in the ancient days of the field. At first, everything was theoretical. In the mid 20th century, theories lead to practical applications. There are a number of resources available in the 1930s that provide theoretical testing. That being said, we see computer science take off when practical applications grow in the 1960s. When the 1950s roll around, many wonder what the future of computers will be.

Increase in the use of computers in the 1960s led to increased need for advancement of computer operating systems which comprise of software with the capability to handle inputs and outputs and execute the jobs as well. As the technical world grows, the consumer looked to find a way to get computers in their homes as well. We see this trend really ramp up in the 1970s.

Computer science remains paramount due to its applicability in business and its ability to revolutionize how business is usually conducted. Information systems have broad applicability in industry. It is through computer science that the creation of machines capable of executing various tasks like human beings have been developed. Now, the two work together on some of the world’s most complicated problems.

Computer Science and Some of its Applications Artificial intelligence Technology web background Virtual concept

What is Computer Science and Some of its Applications?

Computer applications are a huge part of the field. Computer science is more than just hardware and development. Many of computer science’s greatest achievements are in application building and processing. A few key elements of application in the history of computer science make it possible for the field to grow even to this day.

Computer Performance Analysis

Computer performance analysis deals with the output of a computing system. Applications of analysis are used daily. Many computers run diagnostics on their own output. Some even have built-in reporting mechanisms when things go wrong. Whenever an Apple Macbook crashes, the computer asks the user if they’d like a diagnostic report sent. The key to something like this is to analyze why something might be broken or slowing down. If you’re on a computer at home browsing Amazon, it’s not the end of the world if it crashes. Sure, it’s annoying, but you’ll survive.

What about a hospital? Computers running life support machines cannot handle a longterm crash. Computers of all types use this application to keep track of issues that come up. Operations of a more serious nature have more diverse and complicated performance analysis systems. For operations that help keep society running, this application is dire to the lives of many.

Computer Networks

Another important part of the history of computer science are networks. As early as the 1960s, computer scientists decided multiple computers used together could be very beneficial. In order for multiple machines to work in tandem, the scientists created networks. Each individual computer operates individually. Each individual computer’s output, however, weaves itself with the output of other computers.

This is extremely helpful when dealing with large amounts of data. The supercomputer, for example, is a series of networks working together. For a long time, any major computer networks needed to be in one place, hardwired together. Now, the internet allows networks to exist solely in the digital space. If you enjoy big data and research from top universities, then you have computer networks to thank.

Computer Science for the Consumer

While computers provide a useful resource to researchers, they also found their way to consumers. The personal computer is a scientific feat within itself. Think back to the 1980s. Screens on personal computers were minimally interactive at best. Now, we can use touch screens, voice controls, and other accessibility-minded features. It’s not easy getting everything a computer needs to function into a single tablet. This is only possible through computer science.

Achievements in Personal Computers

If you own a computer, or use one at work, then you have computer scientists to thank. Firstly, the race between IBM and Apple in the 1970s accelerated the potential for personal computers to be a possibility. By 1980, something incredible became the focus of every major computer company: computers that fit on a shelf. Fast forward 30 years, and we have computers that can do what experts then though was impossible. A 2019 desktop iMac, for example, features 8 GB of memory out of the box. 1978’s Apple II, on the other hand, had 48KB of memory in its top tier model.

Why does this matter? Computer science is often thought of as an academic field. Sure, you have to go through intense schooling to earn a degree. That being said, computer scientists work on the next great tablet, or even smart home software. There are so many reaches for computer science, and the history of the field shows that. There are essentially no new technologies that exist today without the work of a computer scientist.


The future of computer science and its current events change every day. If you plan on working in today’s world, then computer science is going to affect you. From computers at work to registers at a restaurant, computer science is everywhere. If you don’t consider yourself scientific, that’s okay. Learning about computer science is much more than understanding code. It’s about solving problems, and thinking forward. The history of the field is all about what it means to progress as a society. Thanks to the science of computers, one can do more today than ever before in human history.

As the field grows, so too does our dependence on computers. Whether it’s a smartphone or a desktop, computers are a part of our lives. Not since the printing press has a technology influenced our lives more. It’s important to look to the future, but the past is just as crucial. Knowing what is computer science makes it possible to understand our lives and our digital world in a much more meaningful way.