Computation is any type of calculation[1] or use of computing technology in information processing.[2][3] Computation is a process following a well-defined model understood and expressed as, for example, an algorithm, or a protocol.

The study of computation is paramount to the discipline of computer science.


Computation can be classified by mainly three unique criteria: digital versus analog, sequential versus parallel versus concurrent, batch versus interactive.

In practice, digital computation aids simulation of natural processes (for example, evolutionary computation), including those that are naturally described by analog models of computation (for example, artificial neural network).

Comparison to calculation

Calculation is a term for the computation of numbers, while computation is a wider reaching term for information processing in general.

Physical phenomenon

A computation can be seen as a purely physical phenomenon occurring inside a closed physical system called a computer. Examples of such physical systems include digital computers, mechanical computers, quantum computers, DNA computers, molecular computers, analog computers or wetware computers. This point of view is the one adopted by the branch of theoretical physics called the physics of computation.

An even more radical point of view is the postulate of digital physics that the evolution of the universe itself is a computation - pancomputationalism.

Mathematical models

In the theory of computation, a diversity of mathematical models of computers have been developed. Typical mathematical models of computers are the following:

See also