Back in the 1980s as I was thinking about what to do at university, I was told that doing a Computing A-level was a bad idea if I was going on to do Computer Science as a degree. It was all academic as I wound up picking chemistry in a process that wasn't much more deterministic than flipping a coin but I remember the argument that computing was now a science and desperate to flaunt it.
In practice, it was more an issue of branding than of reality especially at places such as Imperial College, London, as computing science was administered by the City & Guilds College of engineering, not the Royal College of Science where, ahem, all the proper sciences hung out. And dodgy 1960s civil engineering bequeathed them a building with a dirty great big crack down the front.
Listening to Joseph Sifakis of the CNRS Verimag laboratory talk at the Design Automation and Test in Europe (DATE) conference this week, it seemed as though Computer Science's status of a science is still in doubt.
In a whirlwind tour of computer science for building embedded systems - that is, the computers that pilot aircraft, control car brakes and control consumer gadgets - Sifakis said practice has far outstripped theory. There is very little in computer science that lets people take a model and predict how its real-world equivalent will fare. Want to know? You'll have to build a real one and find out.