How many programmers are there? From The Computer Boys Take Over

I just learned about book The Computer Boys Take Over (and immediately ordered a copy for my Kindle), and have been digging through the associated blog. (Thanks, Lauren Klein!) It’s a look at the politics of computing (including gender issues), from a historical perspective. I thought that this graph and blog post were particularly interesting. It’s markedly different from the Scaffidi, Shaw, and Myers prediction about 2012 that they made in 2005, but in part, that’s because Scaffidi et al. actually looked at what people did, where the BLS has been messing with the categories, as described below.

The chart above shows the Bureau of Labor statistics on programmer employment. I am not convinced that these numbers are at all accurate. Getting reliable data on programmer employment is surprisingly difficult.To begin with, programmer is a vague category, and it is by no means clear that everyone who worked on “programming” defined themselves primarily as a “programmer.” Secondly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not beginning tracking programmers until 1972, and in 1983 and again in 2000 they adjusted their categories and methodologies. For the first ten years, three broad categories (“computer specialists”, “computer programmer”, and “computer analysts”) encompassed everyone working in computing.

Deepa Singh
Business Developer
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