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70 years of computer programming--the past, present and future of coding and computing science.

Roxanne Abercrombie of business automation and live chat specialist, Parker Software, examines the history of computer programming.

April marked 70 years since computer programming was recognised as a modern profession. In 1947, the world's first general-purpose computer ran the first piece of code written in the model we're used to today--the same coding operations we see today in languages like JavaScript, Python and Ruby.

Computer programming--or coding--forms the foundation of computing as we know it. Whether you are simply messaging through a social media app on your phone, browsing the internet or completing more complex tasks, such working with a cloud server's Application Programming Interface (API), each it all relies on programming languages.

Ada Lovelace is widely recognised as the world's first computer programmer. In 1843, Lovelace wrote an algorithm for the Analytical Engine--an early version of a mechanical computer, developed by mathematician and computer pioneer, Charles Babbage. She also correctly theorised that the computer could, one day, play music and display graphics. Despite this early algorithm, computer programming as we know it today didn't come into play until April 1947.

The first piece of code as we would recognise it was written for one of the earliest electronic, general-purpose computers ever made, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC. Coding ENIAC to solve a problem could take weeks. However, the technology could perform complex coded operations like loops. In fact, the first test code ran computations for the hydrogen bomb.

Every member of the first ever team of professional programmers were women, a fact that took over 50 years to be officially recognised. In contrast, today's computer programming industry is dominated by male programmers. Even as job opportunities in the sector are expanding, new research from Accenture and Girls Who Code suggests that the gender gap in jobs relating to computer science and programming is getting worse.


In 1984, 37 per cent of computer science majors were women. However, by 2014 this figure dropped dramatically to just 18 per cent. Despite a huge number of incentives and programs encouraging women to consider computer programming as a potential career, the same study estimates just 20 per cent of computing jobs will be held by women by 2025.

Regardless of the gender of today's computer programmers, predictions suggest that while JavaScript will continue to dominate, no one will write it in the future. Across the UK and US, education projects are investing in teaching the next generation how to successfully write software. However, some technologists predict that transcoding robots could be the next step in the evolution of computer programming.

Computer science has come a long way since its humble beginnings with Ava Lovelace's theories. As the world becomes increasingly connected--with Internet of Things (IoT) technology impacting our homes, businesses and factories--we're likely to see the next phase of evolution in the role of computer programming take place at a much faster pace.

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Title Annotation:RESEARCH
Publication:Database and Network Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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