What is computing?
Computing, also called computer science, refers to the technology developed and used for automatic information processing through the use of computers. This discipline includes the foundations for data processing, as well as its application to computer systems, both at the theoretical and practical levels.
Generally, computer science focuses on the study of algorithmic processes to obtain, represent, process, store, access, transform, and communicate the information encoded in data through different programming languages.
Computing is closely linked to other scientific areas such as physics, algebra, and linguistics, and its analysis and comprehension go beyond designing computer equipment for developing applications, languages, and systems for data processing.
What are the elements of computing?
The automatic process of storing and manipulating information through technological devices is possible thanks to two essential computational elements:
- Hardware: these are all the physical elements of electronic devices that can be seen and touched. That is, they are tangible components like screens and keyboards that are difficult to modify to perform a certain task. In addition to applying to computers, hardware is used in other electronic devices such as robots, smartphones, cameras, etc. The elements of hardware are: the computer core, the control unit, the memory, the arithmetic-logical unit, and the peripheral elements.
- Software: the set of programs, applications, rules, and computer instructions that allow the operation of electronic equipment to respond effectively to specific tasks or requests from users. Software is considered the logical part of computing; examples include operating systems, web browsers, video games, programs, and applications. Developing software requires: analyzing the product requirements, the design and architecture, programming, tests, documentation, and maintenance.
Hardware and software work together to analyze and process data information through computer systems: hardware is the physical channel through which software functions and operations are possible.
What are the areas of study for computing?
Computer science is divided into four main areas:
- Algorithms and data structure: these are analyzed at the mathematical level to solve specific problems.
- Operating systems: these are created and updated to improve machine operation according to users’ needs.
- Computer architecture: built and improved to enhance their capabilities, making them faster.
- Programming language: created and multiplied for them to be faster and more effective, with more features.
What’s the history of computing?
Over time, processes that once required human beings to perform calculations turned into automatic data and information management machines. Before the invention of the first digital computer, the science of computing evolved alongside the invention of machines for algorithmic calculation. A few milestones:
- In 1642, the French mathematician Blaise Pascal designed the Pascalina, the first mechanical calculator.
- In 1673, the German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz created the first digital mechanical calculator. He is considered the first computer scientist and information theorist because he documented the binary number system.
- In 1820, the first industrial mechanical calculator was made; it was the first machine to calculate reliably for use in industrial contexts.
- Charles Babbage is considered the father of computing for designing the first automatic mechanical calculator to calculate numerical tables in the mid-nineteenth century: an analytical machine to run computer programs.
- The first person to fathom the capabilities of computers beyond calculus was Ada Lovelace, the daughter of celebrated poet Lord Byron; she was also a writer as well as a mathematician. Today, she is recognized as the first programming engineer in history.
- From the 1940s onwards, computers began to be used for more functions than mathematical calculations; by 1950, computer science began to be treated as an academic discipline.
- In the 1960s, machines began to have more capacity for data processing. They were physically smaller, and the information was entered into the machine through punch cards. The American company IBM (International Business Machines) is recognized as a pioneer in the world of computing, launching the IBM 704 and 709 computers.
- Little by little, operating systems were developed with integrated circuits for their operation, and machines started to be mass-produced. This has been facilitated by the so-called Digital Revolution, thanks to the appearance of the Internet.
- Over the course of the last generation, microchips have been created, making circuits much faster and cheaper. As a result, access to computer machines increased. This era is known as the Computational Revolution.
- The emergence of Artificial Intelligence let large companies in charge of studying and developing computer systems come up with storage devices capable of performing tasks simultaneously, with increasing efficiency and independence from human intervention.