Top 10 Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

11:54 am 22 Apr, 2013

Computer science is an interesting subject if you understand the basics. The basic principles applicable to computer systems and all other digital systems in the world are essentially the same. A computer system is an intelligent combination of hardware and software that receives inputs from you via various input devices (keyboard, mouse, joystick etc.) and provides output via output devices (monitor, speaker etc.). Listed below are top 10 fundamental concepts in computer science:

10.  Software Program:

On a fundamental level, a software program is a set of pre-defined programs. A program can be as basic as a multiplier or as complex as an Enterprise Resource Planning System. Video players, text processors, games etc. are integrated units comprising of thousands of small and large code snippets.

Software Program - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

9. Operating System:

An operating system is a software program too. It’s the interface between you and the computer hardware.  Common examples of operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Linux, DOS, Android & Symbian. It’s the operating system that manages software, hardware, processes and memory.

Operating System - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

8. Swapping:

It’s a memory or process management technique used by an operating system (Microsoft Windows, for example). This technique enables an operating system to execute multiple processes in an efficient manner by creating a queue. Operating system picks up few processes at a time and the rest of them are moved to the swap space.

Swapping - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

7. Master Boot Record:

An operating system boots up with the help of a Master Boot Record or MBR. Technically, it’s the first and most important portion of your entire hard disk. Around 512 bytes of MBR stores an executable code (known as Master Boot Code) that locates the active partition and provides its beginning address to the operating system. Thereafter, it loads the executable code into the memory and transfers the system control to the OS.

Master Boot Record - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

6. Device Driver:

An operating system interacts with devices such as hard drives, graphic cards, DVD drives, network cards & sound cards with the help of a software program called device driver. A device driver has various call functions that handle the device Input/Output. Each function is specific to the hardware in question.

Device Driver - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

5. Central Processing Unit:

CPU or central processing unit is the mind of a computer system. It’s a hardware that performs arithmetic & logic operations controlled by the operating system on a basic level. CPU also processes the Input/Output operations. The processing power and capabilities of CPUs have increased a great deal over the years but their fundamental operations remain the same.

Central Processing Unit - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

4. Random Access Memory (RAM):

Resembling a short ruler, Random Access Memory (Generally referred to as ‘memory’ by non-techies) is responsible for storing instructions and data that are required by the OS for quickly executing a program. For example, if you have opened a browser, media player and calculator on your computer at the same time, some of the program codes and data are stored in random access memory for quick access by the computer.

Random Access Memory - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

3. High Level Language (HLL):

A High Level Language allows a programmer to work on IT solutions without having to get into the details of hardware. The term ‘High level’ in HLL indicates the high level of abstraction. A High Level Language (Java, for example) enables a programmer to develop software that can be independent of hardware.

High Level Language - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

2. Machine Language:

Fundamentally, a computer (hardware system) can only understand and interpret the machine language. A CPU for example, ‘directly’ executes machine language instructions. Each machine language instruction performs a fundamental operation with the help of different units of a processor. All programs written in High Level Language are converted into machine language instructions by the compiler or interpreter.

Machine Language - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science

1. Binary System:

The whole of computer science is based on the binary number system (0 and 1). While 0 represents ‘off’, 1 represents ‘on.’ Thus, all computer systems on a fundamental level work on two simple principles – something is either ON or OFF. It’s hard to imagine but all data, instructions and even the most complex software programs are only a collection, movement and interpretation of a set of 0s and 1s.

Binary System - Fundamental Concepts in Computer Science


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