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  Algorithm (from the Latinized form of the name Al Kwarizmi, the 9th-century Persian mathematician), in computing, is a set of rules determining how a task is to be performed. An example is the following algorithm for making a cheese sandwich: (1) open refrigerator door; (2) remove cheese from the second shelf from top; (3) peel back wrapping from cheese and place cheese on cutting surface; (4) cut four slices of cheese 0.5 cm thick with sharp knife; (5) butter two slices of bread on one side each; (6) place cheese slices on one of the slices of bread, on the buttered side; (7) place second slice of bread, butter side down, on top.

Most algorithms are vastly more complicated than this example. Any task a computer can be programmed to perform must be reduced to an algorithm beforehand. Algorithms define both the limits and the scope of the activities of computers. It has surprised many to see just how many activities can be reduced to algorithms: some of the more unexpected include learning, games playing and even in some limited instances constructing algorithms. SMcL



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