What is computer science? What does a computer scientist do? These are questions that should be asked and answered, but often are not. As a result there seems to be a great big misconception as to what computer science is all about and the role of computer scientists in today’s society. This is certainly true of many high school students and incoming freshmen. Perhaps the misconception was inculcated in high school or through the media. Perhaps it was through a class that was named inappropriately. Perhaps it is the unfortunate use of the word “computer” in computer science that makes people assume that the field is about computers.
Let us start with what computer science is not. It is not about computers! The computer is but a tool used by computer scientist to carry out their work. It is not about hardware or fixing hardware, but does deal with the architecture of computing device. It is not about connecting network devices but rather about designing and formally studying network protocols and their behaviors under various conditions. It is not about writing code, although coding may be the vehicle by which a computer scientist materializes computational principles applied to a specific problem domain.
Computer science is a discipline that balances computational principles with ingenuity applied to solve diverse problems in areas that are quite disparate from computer science. As a science, it involves the study and design of complex systems and the techniques to manage such complexities. It continues to change the way we analyze data, seek information, communicate, and carry out business. Computing has evolved to become ubiquitous in society and, as such, computer science as a discipline has evolved to become increasingly interdisciplinary. Computer scientists infuse computational principles and techniques into the problem-solving process to analyze and logically organize data, design, test, and implement complex systems that increase the efficiency of operating in a specific problem domain and thereby improving quality of life in a society.
Advances in computation ignited the technological revolution and reinvigorated creativity and entrepreneurship. Fueling this revolution continues to be people’s insatiable appetite for access to information. Computer science, no matter what the subdiscipline, is focused on applying computational principles to the storing, analyzing, understanding, and transforming of data into information and the subsequent delivery of this information in a secure, convenient, and efficient way. It exists to quench that information appetite.
It is this technical skill that the industry demands and it is why I am computing! Will you?