The term “analysis of algorithms” was coined by Donald Knuth. Algorithm analysis is an important part of a broader computational complexity theory, which provides theoretical estimates for the resources needed by any algorithm which solves a given computational problem. These estimates provide an insight into reasonable directions of search for efficient algorithms.In theoretical analysis of algorithms it is common to estimate their complexity in the asymptotic sense, i.e., to estimate the complexity function for arbitrarily large input. Big O notation, Big-omega notation and Big-theta notation are used to this end. For instance, binary search is said to run in a number of steps proportional to the logarithm of the length of the sorted list being searched, or in , colloquially “in logarithmic time”. Usually asymptotic estimates are used because different implementations of the same algorithm may differ in efficiency. However the efficiencies of any two “reasonable” implementations of a given algorithm are related by a constant multiplicative factor called a hidden constant.
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Time efficiency estimates depend on what we define to be a step. For the analysis to correspond usefully to the actual execution time, the time required to perform a step must be guaranteed to be bounded above by a constant. One must be careful here; for instance, some analyses count an addition of two numbers as one step. This assumption may not be warranted in certain contexts. For example, if the numbers involved in a computation may be arbitrarily large, the time required by a single addition can no longer be assumed to be constant.
Run-time analysis is a theoretical classification that estimates and anticipates the increase in running time of an algorithm as its input size increases. Run-time efficiency is a topic of great interest in computer science: A program can take seconds, hours, or even years to finish executing, depending on which algorithm it implements. While software profiling techniques can be used to measure an algorithm’s run-time in practice, they cannot provide timing data for all infinitely many possible inputs; the latter can only be achieved by the theoretical methods of run-time analysis.
Computer A, running the linear search program, exhibits a linear growth rate. The program’s run-time is directly proportional to its input size. Doubling the input size doubles the run time, quadrupling the input size quadruples the run-time, and so forth. On the other hand, Computer B, running the binary search program, exhibits a logarithmic growth rate. Quadrupling the input size only increases the run time by a constant amount . Even though Computer A is ostensibly a faster machine, Computer B will inevitably surpass Computer A in run-time because it’s running an algorithm with a much slower growth rate.