Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or
Computing includes designing, developing and
building hardware and software systems; designing a mathematical
sequence of steps known as an algorithm; processing, structuring, and
managing various kinds of information; doing scientific research on
and with computers; making computer systems behave intelligently; and
creating and using communications and entertainment media. The field
of computing includes computer engineering, software engineering,
computer science, information systems, and information technology.
Computer software and hardware
3.1.1 Application software
3.1.2 System software
4 Sub-disciplines of computing
4.5.1 Systems administration
5 Research and emerging technologies
6 See also
8 External links
Computing Curricula 2005 defined "computing" as follows:
"In a general way, we can define computing to mean any goal-oriented
activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computers. Thus,
computing includes designing and building hardware and software
systems for a wide range of purposes; processing, structuring, and
managing various kinds of information; doing scientific studies using
computers; making computer systems behave intelligently; creating and
using communications and entertainment media; finding and gathering
information relevant to any particular purpose, and so on. The list is
virtually endless, and the possibilities are vast."
and it defines five sub-disciplines of the computing field: Computer
Information Systems, information
Computing Curricula 2005 also recognizes that the meaning
of "computing" depends on the context:
Computing also has other meanings that are more specific, based on the
context in which the term is used. For example, an information systems
specialist will view computing somewhat differently from a software
engineer. Regardless of the context, doing computing well can be
complicated and difficult. Because society needs people to do
computing well, we must think of computing not only as a profession
but also as a discipline.
The term "computing" has sometimes been narrowly defined, as in a 1989
ACM report on
Computing as a Discipline:
The discipline of computing is the systematic study of algorithmic
processes that describe and transform information: their theory,
analysis, design, efficiency, implementation, and application. The
fundamental question underlying all computing is "What can be
The term "computing" is also synonymous with counting and calculating.
In earlier times, it was used in reference to the action performed by
mechanical computing machines, and before that, to human
History of computing
History of computing and Timeline of computing
The history of computing is longer than the history of computing
hardware and modern computing technology and includes the history of
methods intended for pen and paper or for chalk and slate, with or
without the aid of tables.
Computing is intimately tied to the representation of numbers. But
long before abstractions like the number arose, there were
mathematical concepts to serve the purposes of civilization. These
concepts include one-to-one correspondence (the basis of counting),
comparison to a standard (used for measurement), and the 3-4-5 right
triangle (a device for assuring a right angle).
The earliest known tool for use in computation was the abacus, and it
was thought to have been invented in
Babylon circa 2400 BC. Its
original style of usage was by lines drawn in sand with pebbles.
Abaci, of a more modern design, are still used as calculation tools
today. This was the first known calculation aid - preceding Greek
methods by 2,000 years.
The first recorded idea of using digital electronics for computing was
the 1931 paper "The Use of Thyratrons for High Speed Automatic
Counting of Physical Phenomena" by C. E. Wynn-Williams. Claude
Shannon's 1938 paper "A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching
Circuits" then introduced the idea of using electronics for Boolean
Main articles: Computer, Outline of computers, and Glossary of
A computer is a machine that manipulates data according to a set of
instructions called a computer program. The program has an executable
form that the computer can use directly to execute the instructions.
The same program in its human-readable source code form, enables a
programmer to study and develop a sequence of steps known as an
algorithm. Because the instructions can be carried out in different
types of computers, a single set of source instructions converts to
machine instructions according to the central processing unit type.
The execution process carries out the instructions in a computer
program. Instructions express the computations performed by the
computer. They trigger sequences of simple actions on the executing
machine. Those actions produce effects according to the semantics of
Computer software and hardware
Computer software or just "software", is a collection of computer
programs and related data that provides the instructions for telling a
computer what to do and how to do it.
Software refers to one or more
computer programs and data held in the storage of the computer for
some purposes. In other words, software is a set of programs,
procedures, algorithms and its documentation concerned with the
operation of a data processing system. Program software performs the
function of the program it implements, either by directly providing
instructions to the computer hardware or by serving as input to
another piece of software. The term was coined to contrast with the
old term hardware (meaning physical devices). In contrast to hardware,
software is intangible.
Software is also sometimes used in a more
narrow sense, meaning application software only.
Main article: Application software
Application software, also known as an "application" or an "app", is a
computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks.
Examples include enterprise software, accounting software, office
suites, graphics software and media players. Many application programs
deal principally with documents. Apps may be bundled with the computer
and its system software, or may be published separately. Some users
are satisfied with the bundled apps and need never install one.
Application software is contrasted with system software and
middleware, which manage and integrate a computer's capabilities, but
typically do not directly apply them in the performance of tasks that
benefit the user. The system software serves the application, which in
turn serves the user.
Application software applies the power of a particular computing
platform or system software to a particular purpose. Some apps such as
Microsoft Office are available in versions for several different
platforms; others have narrower requirements and are thus called, for
example, a Geography application for Windows or an Android application
for education or Linux gaming. Sometimes a new and popular application
arises that only runs on one platform, increasing the desirability of
that platform. This is called a killer application.
Main article: System software
System software, or systems software, is computer software designed to
operate and control the computer hardware and to provide a platform
for running application software.
System software includes operating
systems, utility software, device drivers, window systems, and
firmware. Frequently development tools such as compilers, linkers, and
debuggers are classified as system software.
A computer network, often simply referred to as a network, is a
collection of hardware components and computers interconnected by
communication channels that allow sharing of resources and
information. Where at least one process in one device is able to
send/receive data to/from at least one process residing in a remote
device, then the two devices are said to be in a network.
Networks may be classified according to a wide variety of
characteristics such as the medium used to transport the data,
communications protocol used, scale, topology, and organizational
Communications protocols define the rules and data formats for
exchanging information in a computer network, and provide the basis
for network programming. Well-known communications protocols are
Ethernet, a hardware and
Link Layer standard that is ubiquitous in
local area networks, and the
Internet Protocol Suite, which defines a
set of protocols for internetworking, i.e. for data communication
between multiple networks, as well as host-to-host data transfer, and
application-specific data transmission formats.
Computer networking is sometimes considered a sub-discipline of
electrical engineering, telecommunications, computer science,
information technology or computer engineering, since it relies upon
the theoretical and practical application of these disciplines.
Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks
that use the standard
Internet protocol suite
Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to serve
billions of users that consists of millions of private, public,
academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope,
that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical
networking technologies. The
Internet carries an extensive range of
information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext
documents of the
World Wide Web
World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to
Computer programming and
Computer programming in general is the process of writing, testing,
debugging, and maintaining the source code and documentation of
computer programs. This source code is written in a programming
language, which is an artificial language often more restrictive or
demanding than natural languages, but easily translated by the
computer. The purpose of programming is to invoke the desired behavior
(customization) from the machine. The process of writing high quality
source code requires knowledge of both the application's domain and
the computer science domain. The highest-quality software is thus
developed by a team of various domain experts, each person a
specialist in some area of development. But the term programmer may
apply to a range of program quality, from hacker to open source
contributor to professional. And a single programmer could do most or
all of the computer programming needed to generate the proof of
concept to launch a new "killer" application.
Main articles: Programmer,
Software engineer, and
A programmer, computer programmer, or coder is a person who writes
computer software. The term computer programmer can refer to a
specialist in one area of computer programming or to a generalist who
writes code for many kinds of software. One who practices or professes
a formal approach to programming may also be known as a programmer
analyst. A programmer's primary computer language (C, C++, Java, Lisp,
Python, etc.) is often prefixed to the above titles, and those who
work in a web environment often prefix their titles with web. The term
programmer can be used to refer to a software developer, software
engineer, computer scientist, or software analyst. However, members of
these professions typically possess other software
engineering skills, beyond programming.
The computer industry is made up of all of the businesses involved in
developing computer software, designing computer hardware and computer
networking infrastructures, the manufacture of computer components and
the provision of information technology services including system
administration and maintenance.
The software industry includes businesses engaged in development,
maintenance and publication of software. The industry also includes
software services, such as training, documentation, and consulting.
Sub-disciplines of computing
Computer engineering is a discipline that integrates several fields of
electrical engineering and computer science required to develop
computer hardware and software.
Computer engineers usually have
training in electronic engineering (or electrical engineering),
software design, and hardware-software integration instead of only
software engineering or electronic engineering.
Computer engineers are
involved in many hardware and software aspects of computing, from the
design of individual microprocessors, personal computers, and
supercomputers, to circuit design. This field of engineering not only
focuses on how computer systems themselves work, but also how they
integrate into the larger picture.
Software engineering (SE) is the application of a systematic,
disciplined, quantifiable approach to the design, development,
operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these
approaches; that is, the application of engineering to
software. In layman's terms, it is the act of using
insights to conceive, model and scale a solution to a problem. The
first reference to the term is the 1968 NATO
Conference and was meant to provoke thought regarding the perceived
"software crisis" at the time.
Software development, a
much used and more generic term, does not necessarily subsume the
engineering paradigm. The generally accepted concepts of Software
Engineering as an engineering discipline have been specified in the
Guide to the
Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK). The
SWEBOK has become an internationally accepted standard ISO/IEC TR
Computer science and
Computer science or computing science (abbreviated CS or Comp Sci) is
the scientific and practical approach to computation and its
applications. A computer scientist specializes in the theory of
computation and the design of computational systems.
Its subfields can be divided into practical techniques for its
implementation and application in computer systems and purely
theoretical areas. Some, such as computational complexity theory,
which studies fundamental properties of computational problems, are
highly abstract, while others, such as computer graphics, emphasize
real-world applications. Still others focus on the challenges in
implementing computations. For example, programming language theory
studies approaches to description of computations, while the study of
computer programming itself investigates various aspects of the use of
programming languages and complex systems, and human–computer
interaction focuses on the challenges in making computers and
computations useful, usable, and universally accessible to humans.
Information systems (IS)" is the study of complementary networks of
hardware and software (see information technology) that people and
organizations use to collect, filter, process, create, and distribute
Computing Careers says on their website that
"A majority of IS programs are located in business schools; however,
they may have different names such as management information systems,
computer information systems, or business information systems. All IS
degrees combine business and computing topics, but the emphasis
between technical and organizational issues varies among programs. For
example, programs differ substantially in the amount of programming
required." The study bridges business and computer science using
the theoretical foundations of information and computation to study
various business models and related algorithmic processes within a
computer science discipline.
Information System(s) (CIS) is a field studying computers and
algorithmic processes, including their principles, their software and
hardware designs, their applications, and their impact on
society while IS emphasizes functionality over design.
Information technology (IT) is the application of computers and
telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit and
manipulate data, often in the context of a business or other
enterprise. The term is commonly used as a synonym for computers
and computer networks, but it also encompasses other information
distribution technologies such as television and telephones. Several
industries are associated with information technology, such as
computer hardware, software, electronics, semiconductors, internet,
telecom equipment, e-commerce and computer services.
Main article: System administrator
A system administrator, IT systems administrator, systems
administrator, or sysadmin is a person employed to maintain and
operate a computer system and/or network. The duties of a system
administrator are wide-ranging, and vary widely from one organization
to another. Sysadmins are usually charged with installing, supporting
and maintaining servers or other computer systems, and planning for
and responding to service outages and other problems. Other duties may
include scripting or light programming, project management for
systems-related projects, supervising or training computer operators,
and being the consultant for computer problems beyond the knowledge of
technical support staff.
Research and emerging technologies
Further information: List of unsolved problems in computer science
DNA-based computing and quantum computing are areas of active research
in both hardware and software (such as the development of quantum
algorithms). Potential infrastructure for future technologies includes
DNA origami on photolithography and quantum antennae for
transferring information between ion traps. By 2011, researchers
had entangled 14 qubits. Fast digital circuits (including
those based on Josephson junctions and rapid single flux quantum
technology) are becoming more nearly realizable with the discovery of
Fiber-optic and photonic (optical) devices, which already have been
used to transport data over long distances, have started being used by
data centers, side by side with CPU and semiconductor memory
components. This allows the separation of RAM from CPU by optical
interconnects. IBM has created an integrated circuit with both
electronic and optical information processing in one chip. This is
denoted "CMOS-integrated nanophotonics" or (CINP). One benefit of
optical interconnects is that motherboards which formerly required a
certain kind of system on a chip (SoC) can now move formerly dedicated
memory and network controllers off the motherboards, spreading the
controllers out onto the rack. This allows standardization of
backplane interconnects and motherboards for multiple types of SoCs,
which allows more timely upgrades of CPUs.
Index of history of computing articles
List of computer term etymologies
Electronic data processing
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Find more aboutComputingat's sister projects
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FOLDOC: the Free On-Line Dictionary Of Computing
open-access repository of publications - Department of
Imperial College London
Major fields of computer science
Note: This template roughly follows the 2012 ACM Computing
Printed circuit board
Electronic design automation
Network performance evaluation
Integrated development environment
Software configuration management
Software development process
Theory of computation
Model of computation
Computational complexity theory
Analysis of algorithms
Database management system
Information storage systems
Enterprise information system
Social information systems
Geographic information system
Decision support system
Process control system
Multimedia information system
World Wide Web
Intrusion detection system
Natural language processing
Knowledge representation and reasoning
Automated planning and scheduling
Philosophy of artificial intelligence
Distributed artificial intelligence
Graphics processing unit
Computational social science