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What is Computer Science?

Human beings have always felt the need to communicate their knowledge to others, not only using the spoken – and thus ephemeral – word to address them directly but also by means of more permanent symbolic representations. The invention of writing and systematic number systems is a milestone on the road to structuring knowledge and processing it with the help of its symbolic representation: it marks the beginning of systematic information processing long before mechanical calculating machines and eventually computers were invented for this purpose.

Z3 - der erste funktionsfähige, frei programmierbare, auf dem binären Zahlensystem (Gleitkommazahlen) und der binären Schaltungstechnik basierende Rechner der Welt

The roots of computer science as a discipline dealing with the systematic, automated processing of information thus go back a long way. This is true even though the German name for the discipline, Informatik, was first coined in the 1960s as a combined and contracted form of the two words Information and Automatik and 1941 is given as the year in which Konrad Zuse finished building his computing machine Z3. The Technical University of Berlin is closely associated with the history of the computer through this man, who completed his mechanical engineering studies here in 1935. But what this also shows is that computer science is not only an engineering discipline but also a basic and system science with experimental elements. In recent decades, its mathematically based models, data structures and algorithms have enabled processor and communication speeds to increase exponentially as costs have fallen. A data model based on the simple mathematical theory of relations has led to the creation of a billion-dollar database industry. Quite apart from improvements in hardware, breakthroughs in complexity theory now allow simulations offering a precision, speed and visualization quality that were inconceivable a short time ago.

Über das Berlin Brain Computer Interface steuert die Nachwuchswissenschaftlerin der TU Berlin, Katja Hansen, in Echtzeit einen Flipper-Automaten – allein mit den Gedanken. Die Forschergruppe um Prof. Dr. Klaus-Robert Müller von der TU Berlin entwickelte d

And as computers have spread, computer science, too, has become a cross-cutting discipline that now affects all sectors of science and all areas of our lives. Bioinformatics, for example, is developing new kinds of medicines. Medical innovations like the cardiac pacemaker or the surveillance of intensive-care units have only been made possible by computer science. Meteorologists use methods developed by computer science to collect comprehensive weather- and climate-related data. Computer science has also brought about a radical change in the working methods and tools of the business world. It is now possible to examine and text a product thoroughly during development, before it actually exists physically. Computers simulate chemical reactions and electronic circuits. They show how a car’s body is deformed by a crash and how air flows around an aircraft’s wing.


Mobile or stationary devices, linked via local networks or the Internet, can be used to collect, retrieve and exchange all kinds of information. This offers human beings a wide range of support options in their everyday life and work. In the near future, context-sensitive systems (ambient intelligence) will automatically adapt the respective environment to the human user.

Future generations will live and work in a world that is strongly shaped by computer technology, and studying computer science is one of the best ways to ensure that one can actively and responsibly participate in this development in a professional capacity.

To summarize: computer science is concerned with all aspects of automatic information processing, including interactions with the social environment. Important elements are
:the analysis of basic concepts such as information, data, algorithms, language, machines, systems

  • the analysis of basic concepts such as information, data, algorithms, language, machines, systems
  • the functionality of information-processing machines, their architecture and structural elements and their interplay as components of a overall system
  • the methodological development of complex, distributed information-processing systems
  • the organization, representation, processing and exchange of information in textual, visual, aural or other sensory form
  • the use of information and communication technology in research, engineering, business and administration
  • the effects of this use on different groups of society

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