When you think of the word computer, you probably think of a screen, a keyboard and a mouse, yet computers are almost everywhere and in a lot of different forms. Computer technology is in your music player, in cars, in washing machines, mobile phones – in almost every item of modern technology. This means that, regardless of whatever is going on in technology and the economy, there will continue to be a growing need for people who understand the principles underlying this technology: the discipline of Computer Science.
Computer Science is a wide-ranging subject, so while there are a large number of universities offering degrees in the subject in the UK, you should be aware that they offer quite a range of different degree programmes. For instance, many will place emphasis on software and programming, while others will include more on hardware. In looking for an institution in which to study you should, therefore, take a careful look at the curriculum offered. You should try to find one which matches your interests and abilities. This can be difficult, though, when you will not be sure what some of the modules offered are about. Do you know what an algorithm or a network protocol is? If not, you should not reject a course just because it includes a lot about algorithms – they are a fundamental part of Computer Science, and in practice you will probably find them very interesting. The book Get Set for Computer Science* should help you to understand different course programmes and which ones are likely to best suit you.
There are many vital areas of research going on in Computer Science. Robotics is one. We are relying increasingly on robots to do work that previously only people could do, but how do we build them to have the characteristics that they need? Tasks that are apparently simple for people can be very hard for a robot – such as recognizing visual objects and tracking them. Beyond that, might a robot be able to learn about and take account of the mental states of others or to appreciate music and jokes?
There is a rule which has held true practically since the birth of Computer Science, that the power of computers doubles every 18 months. That implies that when someone graduates, the computers available to them will be four times as powerful as the ones available when they started. What they will be able to do with them is almost impossible to predict, but what is certain is that a graduate with a good Computer Science Degree will be in the best position to be making the most of that technology.
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