Algorithm – What is an algorithm?

The algorithm is defined as a succession of systematic operations for the calculation of a mathematical problem. They are like a series of instructions to follow and whose parameters are defined in different variables necessary for the resolution of a problem, which can have different areas of application.    

The nature of algorithms comes from mathematics, so in its strict definition the term is related to the resolution of mathematical problems. However, currently we can understand it as any methodical process whose objective is to process information and manage it so as to obtain solutions to a problem. 





What is a computer algorithm?


 In the field of computer science, understanding computing in this way, it is customary to understand what an algorithm is with the following definition: a computer algorithm is a succession of sequential instructions with which different processes are produced whose purpose is to respond to some needs and/or decisions. 

Therefore, this type of algorithms have as their final purpose the response to computer data analysis  needs and, more prominently; making decisions in specific areas of a program or application.  

The concept is somewhat complicated, so to simplify we can understand computer algorithms as cooking recipes for solving problems. In the recipe you would put the information of your variables (the specific data of the ingredients you have, for example) and you would obtain decisions regarding how to make a cake perfectly based on your ingredients.  

History of algorithms


Although it may seem to us that algorithms are a recently applied technology, the origins of algorithms lie in ancient times. The Babylonians used them to solve different basic mathematical operations such as multiplication and square roots. The Egyptians also relied on them to solve binary expansion multiplications. But all this occurred without knowing that, in reality, they were using algorithms and there were no theoretical principles on which to base the technique.  

The word itself comes from the translation of the name of Kitab Al Jabr Al Muqabala, an Arab mathematician who in the 9th century wrote a theoretical treatise on equations and the manipulation of numbers.

The first computational algorithms would not be invented until 1842, when British mathematician Ada Lovelace wrote the first algorithm for Charles Babbage, which would be considered the first programming language in history.  

In recent decades and since the invention of the Internet, algorithms have become the foundation of an entire expanding digital world. Currently, much of the theoretical debate is based on the potential of quantum algorithms, which are destined to be a true revolution for our future. 

Applications of a computer algorithm


To understand what an algorithm is, sometimes it is very helpful to see an example. In the 21st century, the world would not be anything like today’s without the invention of algorithms. An example of this is something as used in our daily lives as search engines , which have a direct impact on practices as important for marketing as SEO.  

Search algorithms are the foundation on which search engines like Google are built. Its mission is to navigate through all the information in its databases and apply different variables to decide which results to show first and in what order. Likewise, all social networks use algorithms to match users, content or advertising with potential clients.