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Language in the machine

A speech bubble full of images

It may seem odd to the uninitiated but language - that most human of inventions - is also a core topic of computer science. Computers are just machines that can fctions - programs. Those instructions have to be written in special languages (programming languages) that are precise and unambiguous. New languages are being invented all the time each designed to simplify different bits of computing. Some make it easier to write programs while others are used to check that computer systems behave the way they should.

Language isn’t just the thing that makes computers tick. A lot of exciting computer science helps them work with human languages. The earliest computers were actually developed to do exactly that – in World War II to allow the Allies to unravel the complex German secret codes. Now with Internet technology, computer science is inextricably linked with the way we communicate. It helps us send messages to each other and can also to hide messages from snoopers. Computers help us translate from one language to another and may even help to save threatened languages. Language is the essence of computer science.

Issue 16 of cs4fn is all about the computer science behind language.