Computer Science Algorithm Examples

Illustration of computer code on a laptop with a binary background of 1's and 0's.

Algorithms are essential building blocks in the practice of computer science. As written instructions that help computers operate, they ensure the accomplishment of particular functions, as well as the speed and total workability of software systems. While computer systems use many algorithms, a few in particular are notable for their significant impact.

Notable Computer Science Algorithms

The following algorithms have been particularly influential to today’s advancements in computer science.

Graph representing the Fourier Transform computer algorithm.

Fourier Transform

The Fourier Transform was discovered by Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician who lived between 1768 and 1830, reports Professor John Daugman of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory. Fourier’s algorithm provides an alternative way to represent periodic or cyclic phenomena. It states the idea that it is possible for any space or time varying data to be transformed into frequency space. In other words, it allows scientists to take a time-based pattern, measure every possible cycle within that pattern and return information about how the pattern functions.

In addition to computer science, the significance of the Fourier Transform can be seen in physics, engineering and computational mathematics. The Fourier Transform allows data to be manipulated quickly, making for a better understanding of concepts such as sound, water and radio waves, the analyzation of linear systems and understanding complex data manipulations such as those relating to atomic structures and economic data. The Fourier Transform algorithm is a key tool in computer science for circuit design, signal processing and communications. It makes possible such technology as internet, Wi-Fi routers and satellites.

Diagram Illustration representing Dijkstra's computer algorithm.

Dijkstra’s Algorithm

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra was a Dutch computer scientist who lived between 1930 and 2002. Dijkstra’s algorithm provides a way to find the shortest distance between a single node on a graph and all other available vertices.

The concept of finding the shortest path is a problem-solving model that is widely used both in computer science and beyond, Princeton University explains. Its main benefit lies in the ability to provide increased efficiency within systems. Applications include programs such as Google Maps, urban traffic planning, robot navigation and the routing of telecommunication messages.

Illustration of encryption keys representing the RSA computer algorithm.

RSA Algorithm

The RSA algorithm is named after its three creators: Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman. Introduced in 1978, it is a cryptographic algorithm designed to make electronic transmissions more secure, explains Evgeny Milanov of the University of Washington. As a response to the projected rise in email use, it introduced the following concepts:

  • Public key encryption. Before the RSA algorithm, “couriers” were needed in order for messages to be received across secure networks. The RSA algorithm made it possible for every sender and receiver of information to have their own encryption and decryption keys.
  • Digital signatures. Receivers of messages are required to verify that a transmitted message actually originated from the sender (called a “signature”) and didn’t just come from their device (called “authentication”). The algorithm is written in such a way that the signature cannot be forged, and no signer can later deny having signed the message.

Both of these concepts provide enhanced protection over electronic transmissions including email, fund transfers and other secure transactions.

Ultimately, these three algorithms have provided us with key tools to create computer technology as we know it today.

Using Algorithms in Computer Science Careers

While algorithms have proved useful to mathematicians for centuries, they are now occupying a crucial place in the advancement of computer science. Those who want to pursue this dynamic area of study can begin by earning their online computer science degree from Concordia University Texas. Students learn to work with today’s technology and adapt in the future, ensuring they are well-prepared for this field.