What Computer Science Means to Me

nathan-2013 Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Computer science means a lot more than it seems. It’s a lot more than just programming or sitting in front of screens all day. To me, computer science is about thinking about the world in a logical way and being able to break complex problems down into simple steps that can be solved easily. Computer science is about taking masterpieces of human creation, whether art, music, literature, or though, and transforming them into binary entities that are perfectly preserved and can be disseminated anywhere.

Computer science is also a community. Bound together by the fruits of their own inventions, computer scientists the world over work together to overcome common problems and challenge the boundaries of human achievement. Whether it is in developing a smart grid, writing algorithms to govern how electric or hybrid cars function, or creating software for computers that revolutionize how people process, consume, and create data, computer scientists are everywhere, and they rely on each other to lay the groundwork for common progress.

Part of the beauty of computer science lies in the fact that it is nearly entirely abstract. I’m in a discrete math class now, and one of the lessons that I’ve learned is that real-world situation can be broken down into formulae that can be manipulated to form a cohesive proof of a solution (unless, of course, it can’t be proven—that happens, too). At the same time, it is easy to see the tangible effects of computer science. Look at the computers that govern nearly all electronics.

One of the things that first drew me to computer science was how satisfying it can be. I can’t think of any other engineering discipline where you can his a button labeled “Build and Run” and immediately (or as fast as your computer can compile your program) know whether what you’ve done is functional. Sure, civil engineers and mechanical engineers will say that they can do the same thing. But, really, it’s not the same; they’re just using one of our products to simulate their own work.

Because computer science is primarily simulation driven, it’s okay to be wrong. It’s not a big deal to make a mistake. Getting a segfault in your first C++ program? Go back and check your pointers. Watching your first bridge oscillating like it’s 1940 at Tacoma Narrows? Yeah, you might want to check out a new career….

Everything comes back to computer science these days. It’s inescapable. Gaining a genuine understanding of how computers and programs work gives you an appreciation for the genius that goes into the tools that we use every day. It’s a safe field—most of the time—and you get immediate gratification in being able to see the result of your energies instantly.

So that’s computer science to me. It’s what drives our economy today, and it’s going to be around for a long time. And it’s fun.

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