Though it is a new field, computer science already touches virtually every aspect of human endeavor. Its impact on society is seen in the proliferation of computers, information systems, text editors, spreadsheets, and all of the wonderful application programs that have been developed to make computers easier to use and people more productive. An important part of the field deals with how to make programming easier and software more reliable. But fundamentally, computer science is a science Abstraction of abstraction — creating the right model for thinking about a problem and devising the appropriate mechanizable techniques to solve it.


Every other science deals with the universe as it is. The physicist’s job, for example, is to understand how the world works, not to invent a world in which physical laws would be simpler or more pleasant to follow. Computer scientists, on the other hand, must create abstractions of real-world problems that can be understood by computer users and, at the same time, that can be represented and manipulated inside a computer. Sometimes the process of abstraction is simple.


For example, we can model the behavior of the electronic circuits used to build computers quite well by an abstraction called “propositional logic.” The modeling of circuits by logical expressions is not exact; it simplifies, or abstracts away, many details — such as the time it takes for electrons to flow through circuits and gates. Nevertheless, the propositional logic model is good enough to help us design computer circuits well.