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The Role of Algorithms in Computing

  • Difficulty Level : Medium
  • Last Updated : 20 Aug, 2019

Pre-requisite: Introduction to Algorithms

  • The word Algorithm means “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations”. Therefore Algorithm refers to a set of rules/instructions that step-by-step define how a work is to be executed upon inorder to get the expected results.
  • Algorithms are at the core of most techniques used in contemporary computers alongside other technologies.

How to decide which algorithm is best suited?

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  1. It depends on how efficient the algorithm when higher order of inputs is given.
  2. The possible restrictions/constraints on the values.
  3. The architecture of the computer and the kind of storage devices to be used.
  4. Another important aspect is the correctness of the algorithm implying that algorithm is correct if, for every instance, it produces correct output. An incorrect algorithm might not halt at all on some input instances, or give incorrect output.

Practical applications of algorithms:

  • The Internet without which it is difficult to imagine a day is the result of clever and efficient algorithms. With the aid of these algorithms, various sites on the Internet are able to manage and manipulate this large volume of data. Finding good routes on which the data will travel and using search engine to find pages on which particular information is present.
  • Another great milestone is the Human Genome Project which has great progress towards the goal of identification of the 100000 genes in human DNA, determining the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up the human DNA, storing this huge amount of information in databases, and developing tools for data analysis. Each of these steps required sophisticated and efficient algorithms.
  • The day-to-day electronic commerce activities is hugely dependent on our personal information such as credit/debit card numbers, passwords, bank statements, OTPs and so on. The core technologies used include public-key cryptocurrency and digital signatures which are based on numerical algorithms and number theory.
  • The approach of linear programming is also one such technique which is widely used like
    • In manufacturing and other commercial enterprises where resources need to be allocated scarcely in the most beneficial way.
    • Or a institution may want to determine where to spend money buying advertising in order to maximize the chances of their institution to grow.
  • Shortest path algorithm also has an extensive use as
    • In a transportation firm such as a trucking or railroad company, may have financial interest in finding shortest path through a road or rail network because taking shortest path result in lower labour or fuel costs.
    • Or a routing node on the Internet may need to find the shortest path through the network in order to route a message quickly.
  • Even an application that does not require algorithm content at the application level relies heavily on algorithms as the application depends on hardware, GUI, networking or object orientation and all of these make an extensive use of algorithms.
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