Algorithms are rather obscure, difficult to define sets of instructions, whether logical or mathematical, which allow one to accomplish a given task.

The word ** algorithm **was derived from the name of a 9th century Persian mathematician and astronomer named

**Al-Khwarismi**(the word “

**alkworism**” can be heard by saying this name out loud, which was eventually translated into English as “

**algorithm**), though its meaning has developed and grown a great deal since that time, and today has almost nothing to do with this ancient thinker.

## Computer Algorithms

Algorithms today, as they are most commonly known, are found inside machines such as computers, which run almost entirely on algorithms, which are simply sets of instructions which allow a self-sustaining system of operations.

For example, basic programming languages often use language-based algorithms, utilizing commands such as *If*, *Then*, and *Else* in order to create algorithms which progress naturally from one part of the program to another. i.e. in a given program, the user might be prompted to type either “Y” or “N” (for *yes* and *no*, respectively). The algorithm in the program might then read something like, *If “Y,” then goto A, else, goto B*, then depending on whether or not “Y” was entered, the program would progress via algorithm to a different section of code.

This is a very simple example, but bear in mind that almost *all* computer programming is based on these sorts of algorithms, from the basic Boolean algebra which defines the workings of a physical computer chip, to the instructions which cause a mouse pointer to move across the screen.

Computer visionaries such as **Alan Turing**, working as far back as the 1930’s, have been able to show that sufficiently clever algorithmic sequences can be utilized to solve absolutely *any* imaginable problem, no matter how difficult, provided sufficient time and memory. Turing Machine.

## Everyday Algorithms

Apart from the automated algorithms which take place inside most electronic equipment these days, algorithms are quite pervasive elsewhere, including in one’s own mind.

Nearly every basic mathematical calculation every educated person performs on a daily basis is based, on some level or another, on an algorithm. Simple counting or performing arithmetic, using a base-10 system, requires innumerable logarithms in order to keep straight the modularity of the numerical progression. Likewise, basic algebra, which uses systems of variables to represent unknowns, are forms of algorithms.

Other, more specific algorithms can be found to derive more complicated mathematics, such as advanced multiplication and division.

And, of course, algorithms can be learned to perform even the most difficult of tasks, such as the solving of a Rubik’s Cube (watchÂ YouTube video of a computer using an algorithm to solve a Rubik’s Cube).

Clearly, algorithms are everywhere, absolutely essential, and not to be taken for granted.

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