[SIGCIS-Members] Coding vs programing (starting a new thread)

McMillan, William W william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu
Tue May 5 19:08:04 PDT 2020

Thanks again for the many rich references, all!

Tom and Paul, I never thought of the use of "coder" as being "aggressively unpretentious." Fascinating. So the title-salad you all have elucidated led younger developers to just sluff off all the pomp and circumstance.

One might call that being pretentiously unpretentious!


From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org] on behalf of Ceruzzi, Paul [CeruzziP at si.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, May 05, 2020 5:43 PM
To: members at lists.sigcis.org
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Coding vs programing (starting a new thread)

To those excellent suggestions I would also add the notes of Edsger Dijkstra. Some of his writings also come across as a "rant," but given the current muddy state of programming / coding, I conclude  that he was spot on. Bill: sometimes it is OK to rant!

His "EWD" notes have been archived and are available on-line at the University of Texas. Some of them were gathered a few years ago and published by Springer.


Paul Ceruzzi


Message: 6
Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 19:50:48 +0000
From: "McMillan, William W" <william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu>
To: "members at sigcis.org" <members at sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Programmer vs. coder vs. sofware
        developer vs. software engineer
        <BCD19775A5154645AD4E79C257C1E37A02812E64F6 at CUAA-EX02.cuaa.cuw.edu>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Thanks to those who sent suggestions for background info on this topic!

My own interest in the history of computing is really more about understanding the present, and my concern about the use and misuse of professional titles, though informed by history, leads to questions such as:

- Why do we call programmers and software developers coders nowadays, when that term has long been used to label those with quite limited intellectual involvement in software development, and even considered to be carrying out a clerical task (as explained well in Nathan's book)?

- Why do we apply the term software engineer to those who can program, but who really know very little about software engineering in the broader sense?

To me this suggests that our society, and the enterprises that create the software we use, have extremely limited understanding of software development and what it entails. This is a failure of those of us who teach computing and software engineering and maybe of professional societies.

The risks to society are immense. Imagine if a machinist or even a self-taught tinkerer could adopt the title mechanical engineer at will and be tasked with designing the critical devices of our civilization. Or if anyone with some knowledge of biochemistry could serve as a pharmacist?

Maybe SIGCIS members don't believe that this topic belongs on this list, but I feel that historians might be better positioned to address it than many in the technical and commercial communities who are consumed by immediate demands, and who have very limited understanding of their profession's past.

OK, end of rant!


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