Computer Science and State Machines

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Abstract

Computer science is largely about computation. Many kinds of computing devices have been described, some abstract and some very concrete. Among them are:

  • Automata, including Turing machines, Moore machines, Mealy machines, pushdown automata, and cellular automata.

  • Computer programs written in a programming language.

  • Algorithms written in natural language and pseudocode.

  • von Neumann computers.

  • BNF grammars.

  • Process algebras such as CCS.

Computer scientists collectively suffer from what I call the Whorfian syndrome the confusion of language with reality. Since these devices are described in different languages, they must all be different. In fact, they are all naturally described as state machines.