Simple looking daily life terms can sometimes become intriguingly complex and hard to understand if you try to get to the core of them. For most people there is no boundary between the two of them and choose to use both the terms interchangeably but for a lot others, it can become a serious debate. I never paid much attention to it myself before but since I have jumped into the pit, I have found that both the sides of this argument are right and wrong at the same time. I mean yes there is a significant difference between Algorithm and Code but if you are open to look at this from another perspective then you too will find the walls thinning. So in this article, I am going to discuss the difference between Algorithms and Code. Have a look:
Let’s have a look at the formal definitions first:
“An algorithm is a finite sequence of well-defined, computer-implementable instructions, typically to solve a class of problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are always unambiguous and are used as specifications for performing calculations, data processing, automated reasoning, and other tasks”
Code is a versatile term which can have various different definitions and meanings according to the context.
- In computer programing:
“Coding is the process of designing and building an executable computer program to accomplish a specific computing result.”
- In data compression:
Coding is a process of encoding information by which data can be compressed at the source in such a way that it will then consume less bytes of data than it did originally.
Similarly there can be cipher code, legal code, medical code, etc. But it is mostly used for computer programming and high level languages, so let’s get into more detail.
Algorithm vs Code
Let’s try to understand in simple language and terms the difference here.
- Algorithms are used by mathematicians and programmers to show and define a series of steps and functions to be performed in order to solve a problem. These steps are fixed and so is the sequence the only variables here are the inputs. Algorithms can be used to solve simple problems to complex functions, it all depends on the type of problems.
- Code or Coding is an order of steps which is handed over to a machine or a computer in such a way and language that it can understand and execute the commands. These are generally in the form of high level languages which can be easily understood and translated by machines.
- Coding is generally considered to be of low complexity and is used to define repetitive functions like managing display of a device, validating transactions, etc.
- But Algorithms are considered as high level and complex mechanisms which are even capable of breathing life into projects, scientific curiosities and researches.
Learning to code can be a difficult task on its own but a program which is developed by the coder on the go is not considered on the same difficulty level as of a well defined algorithm. Since a lot of people don’t understand its meaning they start using it interchangeably which is quite wrong technically but may make sense later on. Algorithms and code also play an important role in Artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- Algorithms are considered to be independent of language and can be written in any. It will be considered an algorithm if it serves the purpose of defining steps for solving a problem.
- Code is dependent on language, if you are coding in HTML then you will be using a defined set of terms, commands and instructions but if you are using C++ then everything will completely change. You cannot write computer programming codes in any language you choose.
- Computer code is used to make computer programs, applications, software, etc. which is then used to operate different machines and even computers.
- The Algorithms are used by scientists, researchers, mathematicians, programmers, etc. to define a set of instructions to be used time and again on variables to derive the solution. This is also used in machine learning.
If the difference between Algorithm and Code of them is so stark and clear then what is the debate, you may ask? The issue starts with the definition.
Algorithms are defined as finite, defined and implementable instructions and a lot of programmers suggest that code is also in a way defined as finite, defined and implementable. If one is using specified commands to act upon it then other exhibits the same traits as well. And in a broader sense every program is an algorithm. Yes it is still dependent on the language and applications but covers quite a part of the definition of algorithm.
Another logic which comes up pretty often is that coders use one or more algorithms in code which also makes code a bridge between algorithms or a combined algorithm. Do you also see the walls thinning here? And because of this the use of terms interchangeably seems rather insignificant.