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Issue No.04 - October-December (2001 vol.23)
pp: 56-74
ABSTRACT
<p>In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the "question of professionalism" became a pressing issue for the emerging commercial computer industry. Just who was qualified to be a programmer? Competing visions as to the answers to these questions contributed to an ongoing debate that caused turf wars, labor shortages, and varied approaches to professional development. The author explores the many diverse attitudes and opinions on what professionalism meant in the 1950s and 1960s.</p>
CITATION
Nathan L. Ensmenger, "The 'Question of Professionalism' in the Computer Fields", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.23, no. 4, pp. 56-74, October-December 2001, doi:10.1109/85.969964
REFERENCES
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19. R. Canning, "The Persistent Personnel Problem."
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25. "Professionalism Termed Key to Computer Personnel Situation," p. 156.
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27. J. Callahan, "To the editor ... ," Datamation, vol. 7, no. 3, Mar. 1961, p. 7.
28. E. Menkhaus, "EDP: Nice Work If You Can Get It," Business Automation, Mar. 1969, pp. 41-45, 74.
29. R. Hamming, "One Man's View of Computer Science," ACM Turing Award Lectures: The First Twenty Years, 1966-1985, ACM Press, New York, 1987.
30. W. Paschell, Automation and Employment Opportunities for Office Workers; A Report on the Effect of Electronic Computers on Employment of Clerical Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C., 1958, p. 11.
31. Proc. Rand Symp., 1969, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 78, Box 3, Fld. 4, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
32. This seems to be as true in the 1990s as it was in the 1960s. See, for example, W. Gibbs, "Software's Chronic Crisis," Scientific American, Sept. 1994, p. 86.
33. E. Markham, "EDP Schools—An Inside View," Datamation, vol. 14, no. 4, Apr. 1968, p. 22.
34. Editorial, "Editor's Readout: The Certified Public Programmer," Datamation, vol. 8, no. 3, Mar. 1962.
35. D. Ross, "Certification and Accreditation," Datamation, vol. 14, no. 9, Sept. 1968.
36. L. Fulkerson, "Should There Be a CS Undergraduate Program?," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 10, no. 3, Mar. 1967.
37. D. McCracken, "The Human Side of Computing," Datamation, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 1961, p. 10.
38. C.J.A. "In Defense of Programmers," p. 15.
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40. ——, "The Computer Personnel Research Group," Datamation, vol. 9, no. 1 Jan. 1963, p. 38.
41. L. Kaufman and R. Smith, "Let's Get Computer Personnel on the Management Team," Training and Development J., Dec. 1966, pp. 25-29.
42. Canning "Career Programs in Data Processing."
43. System Development Corp. (advertisement), Comm. ACM, vol. 3, no. 5, May 1960, p. A10.
44. Xerox Corp. (advertisement), Datamation, vol. 14, no. 4, Apr. 1968.
45. Mitre Corp. (advertisement), Datamation, vol. 12, no. 6, June 1966.
46. Bendix Computer Corp. (advertisement), Datamation, vol. 8, no. 9, Sept. 1962.
47. J. Jenks, "Starting Salaries of Engineers are Deceptively High," Datamation, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan. 1967.
48. Editorial, "Learning a Trade," Datamation, vol. 12, no. 10, Oct. 1966, p. 21.
49. For example, see C.I. Keelan, "Controlling Computer Programming," J. Systems Management, Jan. 1969; D. Herz, New Power for Management, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1969; R. Canning, "Managing the Programming Effort," EDP Analyzer, vol. 6, no. 6, June 1968, pp. 1-15; C. Lecht, The Management of Computer Programming Projects, American Management Assoc., New York, 1967.
50. M. Gotterer, "The Impact of Professionalization Efforts on the Computer Manager," Proc. 1971 ACM Ann. Conf., ACM Press, New York, 1971, p. 368.
51. Fred Gruenberger noted this tendency as early as 1962: "You know, I've never seen a hot dog language come out yet in the last 14 years…that didn't have tied to it the claim in its brochure that this one will eliminate all programmers." His quote appeared in the Rand Symp., "On Programming Languages, Part II," Datamation, vol. 8, no. 11, Nov. 1962.
52. P. Naur, B. Randall, and J.N. Buxton eds. Software Engineering: Proc. NATO Conf., Petrocelli/Carter, New York, 1976, p. 89.
53. R. Canning, "Issues in Programming Management," EDP Analyzer, vol. 12, no. 4, Apr. 1974.
54. B. Rothery, , Installing and Managing a Computer, Business Books, London, 1968, p. 80.
55. A.P. Ershov, "Aesthetics and the Human Factor in Programming," Comm. ACM, vol. 15, no. 7, July 1972, p. 502.
56. Ibid., p. 502.
57. In the early 1970s, several books expressing concerns about the "industrialization" of programming appeared, the most notable of which is P. Kraft, Programmers and Managers: The Routinization of Computer Programming in the United States, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1977.
58. Although the specific composition of the group changed from year to year, the attendees always represented the highest levels of leadership in the discipline: award-winning computer scientists, successful business entrepreneurs, association presidents, and prolific authors.
59. Proc. Rand Symp., "Defining the Problem, Part II," Datamation, vol. 11, no. 9, Sept. 1965, pp. 23-35.
60. DPMA report, Six Measures of Professionalism, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 88, Box 21, Fld. 40., Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
61. A. Oettinger, "ACM Sponsors Professional Development Program (President's Letter to ACM Membership)," Comm. ACM, vol. 9, no. 10, Oct. 1966, pp. 712-713.
62. H. Wilensky, "The Professionalization of Everyone?" American J. Sociology, vol. 70, no. 2, Feb. 1964, pp. 137-158.
63. M.S. Larson, The Rise of Professionalism: A Sociological Analysis, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1977.
64. R. Zussman, Mechanics of the Middle Class: Work and Politics Among American Engineers, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1985.
65. The sociologist Harold Wilensky describes numerous case studies of occupations attempting to professionalize in this period, among them librarians, druggists, funeral directors, and high school teachers. See Wilensky, "The Professionalization of Everyone?" (1964).
66. "Professionalism Termed Key to Computer Personnel Situation," pp. 156-157.
67. R. Canning, "Professionalism: Coming or Not?," p. 2.
68. R. Gordon, "Personnel Selection," Data Processing—Practically Speaking, F. Gruenberger and S. Naftaly, eds., Data Processing Digest, Los Angeles, 1967, pp. 85, 87.
69. L. Fein, "The Role of the University in Computers, Data Processing, and Related Fields," Comm. ACM, vol. 2, no. 10, Oct. 1959.
70. Q. Correll, "Letters to the Editor," Comm. ACM, vol. 1, no. 7, July 1958, p. 2; P.A. Zaphyr, "The Science of Hypology," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 1959, p. 4; Editors of DATA-LINK, "What's in a Name?," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 1, no. 4, Apr. 1958, p. 6. A more complete treatment of this history can be found in Paul Ceruzzi, "Electronics Technology and Computer Science, 1940-1975: A Coevolution," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 10, no. 4, Apr. 1989, pp. 257-275.
71. C.M. Sidlo, "The Making of a Profession," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 4, no. 8, Aug. 1961.
72. M. Gotterer, "The Impact of Professionalization Efforts on the Computer Manager," Proc. 1971 ACM Ann. Conf., ACM Press, New York, 1971, pp. 371, 372.
73. J. Carlson, "On Determining CS Education Programs," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 9, no. 3, Mar. 1966.
74. E. Weiss, "Publications in Computing: An Informal Review," Comm. ACM, vol. 15, no. 7, July 1972.
75. S. Gass, "ACM Class Structure," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 2, no. 5, May 1959, p. 4.
76. Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 88, Box 22, Fld. 1; Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 23, Box 1, Fld. 15; Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
77. Editorial, "The Cost of Professionalism," Datamation, vol. 9, no. 10, Oct. 1963.
78. A. Oettinger, "On ACM's Responsibility (President's Letter to ACM Membership)," Comm. ACM, vol. 9, no. 8, Aug. 1966.
79. Ibid., p. 546.
80. Proc. Rand Symp., 1969. Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 78, Box 3, Fld. 4; Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
81. W. Aspray, "Was Early Entry a Competitive Advantage?," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 22, no. 3, July-Sept. 2000, p. 65.
82. J. Carlson, "On Determining CS Education Programs," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 9, no. 3, Mar. 1966, p. 135.
83. The best available source on this material is A. Akera, Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers and Computers in the United States, 1937-1968, doctoral dissertation, History&Sociology of Science Dept., Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1998.
84. D. Parnas, "On the Preliminary Report of C3S," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 9, no. 4, Apr. 1966, pp. 242-243.
85. T. White, "The 70's: People," Datamation, vol. 16, no. 7, July 1973, p. 11.
86. ACM Curriculum Committee, "An Undergraduate Program in Computer Science—Preliminary Recommendations," Comm. ACM, vol. 8, no. 9, Sept. 1965, p. 544.
87. For example, in his 1968 classic, Fundamental Algorithms, computer scientist Donald Knuth attempted to situate "the art of programming" on a firm foundation of mathematical principles and theorems. See also Paul Ceruzzi, "Electronics Technology and Computer Science."
88. ACM Curriculum Committee, "Curriculum 68: Recommendations for Academic Programs in Computer Science," Comm. ACM, vol. 11, no. 3, Mar. 1968, pp. 151-157.
89. R. Wishner, "Comment on Curriculum 68," Comm. ACM, vol. 11, no. 10, Oct. 1968; Datamation Report, "Curriculum 68," Datamation, vol. 14, no. 5, May 1968; Hamming, "One Man's view of Computer Science."
90. J. Postley, "Letter to Editor," Comm. ACM, vol. 3, no. 1, Jan. 1960.
91. P. Armer, "Thinking Big," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 1959. Emphasis mine.
92. H. Grosch, "Plus and Minus," Datamation, vol. 5, no. 6, June 1959.
93. R. Payne, "Reaction to Publication Proposal," (letter to editor), Comm. ACM, vol. 8, no. 1, Jan. 1965.
94. A. Oettinger, "ACM Sponsors Professional Development Program (President's Letter to ACM Membership)," Comm. ACM, vol. 9, no. 10, Oct. 1966.
95. B. Galler, "The Journal (President's Letter to ACM Membership)," Comm. ACM, vol. 12, no. 2, Feb. 1969.
96. ——, "Will You Vote for an Association Name Change to ACIS?," Comm. ACM, vol. 8, no. 7, July 1965; "Vote on ACM Name Change," (1978), Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 43, Box 3, Fld. 10, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
97. A. Oettinger, "President's Reply to Louis Fein," Comm. ACM, vol. 10, no. 1, Jan. 1967.
98. G. DiNardo, "Software Management and the Impact of Improved Programming Technology," Proc. 1975 ACM Ann. Conf., ACM Press, New York, 1975, pp. 288-289.
99. "Editor's Readout: The Certified Public Programmer," p. 23.
100. Ibid., p. 23.
101. Ibid., p. 23.
102. In response to criticism from the many otherwise qualified programmers who did not have formal mathematical training or college-level degrees, the educational requirements were suspended until 1965. The other prerequisites—three years' experience and "high character qualifications"—were so vague as to be almost meaningless and seem to have been only selectively enforced.
103. "Certificate in Data Processing," Datamation, vol. 9, no. 8, Aug. 1963.
104. DPMA Certificate Panel (1964), Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 46, Box 1, Fld. 17, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
105. Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 116, Box 1, Fld. 10, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
106. CDP Advisory Council, "Minutes of the Third Annual Meeting,"17-18 Jan. 1964, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 88, Box 2, Fld. 3, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
107. R. Canning, "The Question of Professionalism," p. 1.
108. R. Canning, "The DPMA Certificate in Data Processing," EDP Analyzer, vol. 3, no. 7, July 1965.
109. Sidlo "The Making of a Profession," p. 366.
110. Datamation Report, "Certificate in Data Processing," Datamation, vol. 9, no. 8, Aug. 1963.
111. "DPMA Revises CDP Test Requirements," Data Management, Aug. 1967, pp. 34-35.
112. Computerworld,19 Aug. 1970, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 116, Box 1, Fld. 27, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
113. A. Orden, "The Emergence of a Profession."
114. C.M. Sidlo, "The Making of a Profession," p. 366.
115. From the DPMA file, "Notes on ACM (1966)." Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 46, Box 1, Fld. 3, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis. An early draft of this document referred specifically throughout to the "DPMA certification program." Although the final version referred only to certification programs in the abstract, the target of its attacks was obviously the CDP.
116. DPMA Board of Directors, "Minutes of 10th meeting," 1966; Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 88, Box 2, Fld. 7, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
117. Letter from Jack Yarbrough, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 46, Box 1, Fld. 17, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
118. L. Johnson, "Letter to Richard Kornblum," Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 46, Box 1, Fld. 16, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
119. R. Calvin Elliot, "Editor's Page," Data Management, Feb. 1966, Charles Babbage Institute Archives, CBI 46, Box 1, Fld. 3, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
120. "Executive Meeting Summary," 1966; Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 46, Box 1, Fld. 3 , Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
121. R. Canning, "The DPMA Certificate in Data Processing."
122. R. Canning, "The DPMA Certificate in Data Processing." Similar comments were made by Jack Yarbrough, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 46, Box 1, Fld. 17, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
123. M. Stone, "In Search of an Identity," Datamation, vol. 18, no. 3, Mar. 1972, p. 53.
124. Proc. Rand Symp., "Problems of the AFIPS Societies Revisited," 1975, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 78, Box 3, Fld. 7. , Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
125. Ibid., pp. 22-23.
126. P. Armer, "Editor's Readout: Suspense Won't Kill Us," Datamation, vol. 19, no. 6, June 1973.
127. Proc. Rand Symp., "Is It Overhaul or Trade-in Time? Part II," Datamation, vol. 5, no. 5, May 1959.
128. C. Shaw, "Programming Schisms," Datamation, vol. 8, no. 9, Sept. 1962, p. 32.
129. Proc. Rand Symp., 1969. Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 78, Box 3, Fld. 4, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
130. M. Gotterer, "The Impact of Professionalization Efforts on the Computer Manager," p. 368.
131. W. Flywheel, "Letter to the Editor (On Professionalism)," Datamation, vol. 5, no. 5, May 1959, p. 2. The "other organization" that he was referring to was the American Federation of Data Processing Societies (AFIPS).
132. Proc. Rand Symp., "Is It Overhaul or Trade-in Time? Part II," Datamation, vol. 5, no. 4, Apr. 1959, p. 27.
133. R. Canning, "Professionalism: Coming or Not?," p. 2.
134. Ibid., p. 2.
135. For a fuller discussion of this, see N. Ensmenger, From 'Black Art' to Industrial Discipline: The Software Crisis and the Management of Programmers, doctoral dissertation, History&Sociology of Science Dept., Univ. of Pennsylvania, 2001.
136. R. Jones, "A Time to Assume Responsibility," Datamation, vol. 13, no. 9, Sept. 1967, p. 160.
137. "Survey on Use of Service Bureaus," Wall Street J., special report, 1969, Charles Babbage Inst. Archives, CBI 88, Box 30, Fld. 29, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
138. T.C. Lethbridge, “What Knowledge is Important to a Software Professional?” Computer, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 44-50, May 2000.
139. N. Ensmenger, "Software as Labor Process," in Mapping the History of Computing: Software Issues, U. Hashagen, R. Keil-Slawik, and A. Norberg, eds., Springer-Verlag, New York, to be published in 2002.
140. S. McConnell, After the Gold Rush: Creating a True Profession of Software Engineering, Microsoft Press, Redmond, Wash., 1999.
141. See, for example, A. Abbott, The Systems of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988.
142. The heated recent debate about a potential IT worker shortage reveals the highly contested nature of questions of skill, education, and certification. For a good introduction to this debate, see P. Freeman and W. Aspray, The Supply of Information Technology Workers in the United States, Computing Research Assoc., Washington, D.C., 1999.
143. In fact, the only published reference I could find to Eckert's speech was an offhand comment made by Robert Gordon in his "Review of Charles Lecht, The Management of Computer Programmers," Datamation, vol. 14, no. 4, Apr. 1968.
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