A computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers have the ability to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs. These programs enable computers to perform an extremely wide range of tasks.
Computer science is the study of the theory, experimentation, and engineering that form the basis for the design and use of computers. It is the scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications and the systematic study of the feasibility, structure, expression, and mechanization of the methodical procedures (or algorithms) that underlie the acquisition, representation, processing, storage, communication of, and access to, information. An alternate, more succinct definition of computer science is the study of automating algorithmic processes that scale. A computer scientist specializes in the theory of computation and the design of computational systems. See glossary of computer science.
Computer science research is different from these more traditional disciplines. Philosophically it differs from the physical sciences because it seeks not to discover, explain, or exploit the natural world, but instead to study the properties of machines of human creation. In this it is analogous to mathematics, and indeed the "science" part of computer science is, for the most part mathematical in spirit. But an inevitable aspect of computer science is the creation of computer programs: objects that, though intangible, are subject to commercial exchange.
Dennis Ritchie (1984) Reflections on Software Research.
Computer science... differs from physics in that it is not actually a science. It does not study natural objects. Neither is it, as you might think, mathematics; although it does use mathematical reasoning pretty extensively. Rather, computer science is like engineering; it is all about getting something to do something, rather than just dealing with abstractions, as in the pre-Smith geology.
Richard Feynman, Feynman Lectures on Computation, 1970
Without real experience in using the computer to get useful results the computer science major is apt to know all about the marvelous tool except how to use it. Such a person is a mere technician, skilled in manipulating the tool but with little sense of how and when to use it for its basic purposes.
Richard Hamming, 1968 Turing Award lecture, Journal of the ACM 16 (1), January 1969, p. 6