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What is an Algorithm? Types, Applications, and Characteristics

  • Riya Kumari
  • Dec 02, 2020
  • Updated on: Jun 02, 2021
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“By 2025, 80 percent of the functions doctors do will be done much better and much more cheaply by machines and machine-learning algorithms”- Vinod Khosla


An algorithm is a popular term that you must have heard in numerous areas, including computer programming, mathematics, and even in our daily lives.


An algorithm can be clarified as a step by step process or formula for problem-solving or you can say that it is a set of instructions formulated to conduct a particular work. So, the best example for this is a recipe as it explains what must be perpetrated, step by step. 


Algorithms are normally built in underlying languages, that means it can be carried out in more than one programming language. Algorithms are are used as specifications for data processing, doing mathematics, automated reasoning, and several other chores like this.


Accordingly, this blog will introduce you to the definition of the algorithm, types of an algorithm, characteristics of algorithm, its advantages and disadvantages, applications of an algorithm, programming algorithm, etc.



Definition of  an Algorithm


An algorithm is a bunch of self-contained succession of guidelines or activities that contain limited space or grouping such that it will give us an outcome to a particular issue in a limited measure of time.


It is a sensible and numerical way to tackle or break an issue using any conceivable strategy and it is a bit by bit process to tackle an issue.


A good algorithm ought to be advanced in phrases of time and space. Thus, various sorts of issues require various kinds of algorithmic-strategies to be illuminated in the most improved way.


(Related blog: Top 10 machine learning algorithms)


For example, you try cooking a new recipe, first you read the instructions and then follow the steps one by one as given in the recipe. Thus, after following the steps you will get your food ready.


Likewise, algorithms help to manage a task in programming to get the normal output. The algorithms designed are language-independent, that is they are just simple instructions that can be executed in any language. However, the output will be similar, as anticipated.


7 Types of Algorithms


  • Brute Force Algorithm


A brute force algorithm essentially attempts all the chances until an acceptable result is found. This is the most fundamental and least complex type of algorithm. Such types of algorithms are moreover used to locate the ideal or best solution as it checks all the potential solutions.


Also, it is used for finding an agreeable solution (not the best), basically stopping when an answer to the issue is found. It is a clear way to deal with an issue that is the first approach that strikes our mind after observing the issue.


(Must check: Top Deep Learning Algorithms)


  • Recursive Algorithm 


This type of algorithm depends on recursion. In recursion, an issue is comprehended by breaking it into subproblems of a similar kind and calling itself over and over until the issue is unravelled with the assistance of a base condition.


It solves the base case legitimately and afterwards recurs with a more straightforward or simpler input every time. It is used to take care of the issues which can be broken into less complex or more modest issues of the same sort.


(Must read: Expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm in ML)


  • Dynamic Programming Algorithm 


This type of algorithm is also called the memoization technique. This is because, in this, the thought is to store the recently determined outcome to try not to figure it over and over.


In Dynamic Programming, partition the unpredictable issue into more modest covering subproblems and putting away the outcome for sometime later. In simple language, we can say that it recollects the previous outcome and uses it to discover new outcomes.


  • Divide and Conquer Algorithm


In the Divide and Conquer algorithm, the thought is to tackle the issue in two areas, the first section partitions the issue into subproblems of a similar sort. The second section is to tackle the more modest issue autonomously and afterwards add the joined outcome to create the last response to the issue.


  • Greedy Algorithm


Now coming towards another type that is a greedy algorithm, so in this, the solution is created portion by portion. The finding to select the following role is accomplished on the purpose that it provides the sudden help and it never deems the options that had assumed lately.


  • Backtracking Algorithm


In this type of algorithm, the issue is worked out steadily, for example, it is an algorithmic-procedure for taking care of issues recursively by attempting to construct an answer steadily, each piece, in turn, eliminating those solutions that neglect to fulfil the conditions of the situation at any point of time.


  • Randomized Algorithm


In this type of algorithm, a random number is taken for deciding at least once during the computations.


(Related blog: How Does Support Vector Machine (SVM) Algorithm Works In Machine Learning?)


Characteristics of An Algorithm


There are some characteristics that every algorithm should follow and here is the list of some of them which we will see one by one.


  1. Input specified- The input is the information to be changed during the calculation to create the output. An algorithm ought to have at least 0 all around characterized inputs. Input exactness necessitates that you understand what sort of information, how much and what structure the information should be.


  1. Output specified- The output is the information coming about because of the calculation. An algorithm ought to have at least 1 all around characterized outputs, and should coordinate the ideal output. Output exactness likewise necessitates that you understand what sort of information, how much and what structure the output should be.


(Must read: Dijkstra’s Algorithm: The Shortest Path Algorithm)


  1. Clear and Unambiguous- Algorithms must determine each step and each of its steps should be clear in all behaviours and must direct to only one meaning. That's why the algorithm should be clear and unambiguous. Details of each step must be likewise be explained (counting how to deal with errors). It ought to contain everything quantitative and not subjective.

This image is showing some characteristics of algorithm like input specified, output specified, feasible, and finiteness.

Some Characteristics of Algorithm

  1. Feasible- The algorithm should be effective which implies that all those means that are needed to get to output must be feasible with the accessible resources. It should not contain any pointless and excess advances which could make an algorithm ineffectual.


  1. Independent- An algorithm should have step by step directions, which should be independent of any programming code. It should be with the end goal that it very well may be a sudden spike in demand for any of the programming dialects.


  1. Finiteness- The algorithm must quit, eventually. Stopping may imply that you get the normal output. Algorithms must end after a limited number of steps. An algorithm should not be boundless and consistently end after a finite number of steps. There is no reason for building up an algorithm that is limitless as it will be pointless for us.


(Recommend blog: Introduction to Decision Tree Algorithm in Machine Learning)



What is a Programming Algorithm?


You can consider a programming algorithm a recipe that depicts the specific advances required for the computer to take care of an issue or arrive at an objective. We have all observed food plans, they list the ingredients required and a bunch of steps for how to make the portrayed dinner. 


Indeed, an algorithm is much the same as that. In computer language, the word for a recipe is a process, and the ingredients are called inputs. Your computer takes a glance at your system, follows it precisely, and you will see the outcomes, which are called outputs.


A programming algorithm portrays how to accomplish something, and your computer will do it precisely that way without fail. All things considered, it will once you convert your algorithm into a language it gets it. 


Nevertheless, it's crucial to take note that a programming algorithm isn't computer code. It's written in straightforward English or whatever the programmers talk about.


It doesn't beat around the bush, it has a beginning, a centre, and an end. Indeed, you will likely name the initial step 'start' and the last advance 'end.'


(Recommend read: What Is Naive Bayes Algorithm In Machine Learning?)

“The best programs are written so that computing machines can perform them quickly and so that human beings can understand them clearly. A programmer is ideally an essayist who works with traditional aesthetic and literary forms as well as mathematical concepts, to communicate the way that an algorithm works and to convince a reader that the results will be correct”- Donald Knuth


It incorporates just what you have to do the undertaking. It generally prompts an answer and attempts to be the most productive arrangement we can concoct. It's frequently a smart thought to number the means, yet you don't need to.


Rather than numbered steps, a few people use space and write in pseudocode. However, it is not that important as simplicity is the main part. Different people use different things like some fellows simply use a graph called a flowchart.


Applications of the Algorithm


Here we will see some of the practical applications of the algorithm.


  • First, we will start with the internet which is very much important for our daily life and we cannot even imagine our life without the internet and it is the outcome of clever and creative algorithms. Numerous sites on the internet can operate and falsify this huge number of data only with the help of these algorithms.


  • The everyday electronic commerce activities are massively subject to our data, for example, credit or debit card numbers, passwords, OTPs, and many more. The centre technologies used incorporate public-key cryptocurrency and digital signatures which depend on mathematical algorithms.


  • Even an application that doesn't need algorithm content at the application level depends vigorously on the algorithm as the application relies upon hardware, GUI, networking, or object direction and all of these create a substantial use of algorithms.


  • There are some other vital use cases where the algorithm has been used such as if we watch any video on YouTube then next time we will get related-type advice as recommended videos for us




In conclusion, we can say that an algorithm is a step by step process for problem-solving. Above, we have seen several applications, characteristics of algorithms but there are numerous advantages and disadvantages of algorithms. 

The algorithm is easy to understand and in this, the issue is torn down into tinier pieces or steps. Thus, it makes it easier for the programmer to modify it into an actual program.


Also, there are some disadvantages like writing an algorithm carries a long time so we can say that it is time-consuming and branching and looping articles are hard to indicate in algorithms. Thus, there are lots of things to learn about this problem-solving term algorithm.

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