Welcome to our introduction to algorithms. Here we’ll briefly sum up what algorithms are and try and explain why they are important. This page will hopefully provide you with a solid understanding of what an algorithm is, and how to spot real-world algorithms.
What is an algorithm?
An algorithm is a series of steps that, when followed in order, will achieve a particular task. An algorithm is commonly thought to be computing related, and while algorithms are used extensively in computing, they are certainly not restricted to that field.
For instance, a sorting algorithm can help you organize information, but a recipe can help you create a meal.
A recipe is a very useful way of visualizing an algorithm because it contains an input, in the form of ingredients, an output, in the form of the finished meal, and has a method or series of steps that must be followed in a particular order to turn the input into the output.
An algorithm must meet certain criteria for it to be a good algorithm. These are:
- Definiteness – Each step must be clearly defined and easy to replicate.
- Finiteness – There should be no infinite loops in an algorithm. It should have a finite amount of steps and terminate when complete.
- Effectiveness – It must be possible to complete the algorithm with existing computing technology. It must also effectively produce the desired results consistently.
A very good video introduction to algorithms can be seen below: