Before diving into a detailed explanation of a sequence in programming, let’s take a look at a real world example.
Let's take the example of organising a wardrobe of clothes. Typically, the wardrobe will be messy and cluttered. The task that is assigned is to declutter the wardrobe and arrange the clothes. How to complete this assigned task?
Firstly, one may choose to tackle the wardrobe shelf by shelf, or may empty the whole wardrobe and then sort all the clothes into piles. One may also sort the clothes according to the season or according to its colours. But no matter which way they choose to accomplish the task, the task itself can be ordered in a sequence. The sequence may look something like this:
Empty the wardrobe.
Sort clothes into colours/functionality/season.
Fold the clothes.
Arrange it into piles.
Put the piles back into the wardrobe.
The task is completed.
By following this sequence, anyone can achieve the task. This idea is the basic principle behind sequence programming. What it effectively means is to break up a given task into an order or sequence of smaller tasks. Completing every small task or job in effect helps in completing the larger task.
A sequence in programming refers to an ordered set of instructions or tasks. In common parlance, one may also use the term “algorithm” which can be defined as an ordered sequence of steps to achieve a particular task. The order is key here.
If you follow the wrong order, then the task cannot be achieved, or you may get ambiguous results. Now that the definition of sequence is clear to you, let's go through another example of sequence.
Algorithms are fundamental to sequences in programming, and they describe in detail how any task is to be achieved in a step-by-step ordered manner. Algorithms can also be said to be a series of steps taken to achieve a given task.
Computers rely heavily on algorithms to do useful work. Computers can neither function with intuitive knowledge, nor do they have their own intelligence to make decisions. They depend on humans to provide them with the “thought pattern” or the “method” of doing work.
The project that has been assigned to you is to build a flower garden. The area of land is marked out for you, and all you have to do is start planting. Now you can approach the task haphazardly or systematically. Either way, you will get a result.
The reason to choose to do the work systematically is so that the task becomes more simplified. First, you can decide on a couple of things, for example, what you are going to plant, how you are going to arrange the plants, what compost and soil mixture you will use. Then you will begin planting from one end. You will divide your work into time slots and complete it in parts.
In effect first, you need to draw up a plan. Decide on the necessary steps to take and then achieve the task.
Let’s also assign this same task to a computer.
Computers cannot work haphazardly. Computers also lack intuition and decision-making capabilities. They need to be programmed to achieve the task. Now to program the computer means one has to give it a set of instructions. And if you want to achieve the task meaningfully, you need to give in the instructions in an ordered sequence. That way, the machine will be able to do the same task as you.
Here is a sequence you can give the computer to plant a garden.
Divide the land into four parts.
Plant flowers in the top-right part.
Plant vegetables in the top-left part.
Plant grass in the bottom right part.
Install a water fountain in the bottom left part.
This sequence makes the work meaningful as well as the computer can achieve it step-by-step. With the help of this example, what is sequence should be apparent to you?
Computers do not have a mind of their own. They lack intuitive thinking and expression of ideas. They are machines that are built and programmed to do certain tasks. They do not deviate from whatever they are made to do. In a way, they are the ideal minions, since they work without tiring and accurately follow instructions to the letter.
A computer system is a what-you-put-in-is-what-you-get. Program a computer to do irresponsible work, and that is what it will achieve. Program it to do intelligent work, and that is what it will achieve.
Computers need sequence programming because they lack the intelligence of their own, and they depend on sequenced instructions to complete work in record time. This manner of functioning makes computers both useful and versatile in a vast field of work.
The first benefit of sequence programming is that it most closely mirrors the actual thought pattern. Our manner of thinking can be easily replicated in sequence programming. Humans think in an ordered manner when it comes to doing work so the same thought pattern can be lent to computers.
Also, sequence programming accurately reflects logical thinking. Computers should not work according to sensibilities but must use logic and reasoning to finish their tasks; hence this method of programming is very vital for them.
Thus, the importance of sequence thinking and why it is useful to a computer should be apparent to you. You can use this idea further to gain more expertise in computer science. It is both a vital and exciting concept.
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