Original question from Quora:

Is computer programming a dying career?

I just read this article: Coding Academies Are Nonsense. One of the points the author makes is that computer programming won’t be a career in a few decades because tools that let non-coders build software will become so good and easy to use that computer programmers will be obsolete. Do people think this is true? I suppose every career will eventually be automated out of existence. Is computer programming a career that’s likely to be automated out of existence sooner than most others?

My Answer:

I will tell you my answer, but I warn you that it’s not particularly helpful to what you really want to know.

I have a feeling that what you are really getting at is the question of if it is worth going into the field. Will you make money once you have the skills to do the job?

Let me tell you a quick story that will hopefully answer both questions.

I was born in the 80’s. Back then computers were text based terminals and their graphical capabilities were very limited. There were some computer based video games on Nintendo that were more graphical, but it was all text.

There was almost no real internet for most people.

Eventually the Mac happened and became quite popular in schools. That proceeded to eliminate Oregon Trail and replace it with Sim City 2000.

In the mid 90’s the internet became “a thing” with AOL and around 1995 the whole thing exploded.

Sometime in the 80’s my parents bought a Tandy 1000, but in 1995 we bought a Packard Bell desktop computer with a CD-ROM drive, a 14” monitor, a 14.4 kbps modem, Windows 3.1 and yes it ran AOL.

That changed my world and around that time I started to learn to write code.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m a grown up in my 30’s writing software for a living.

In the 90’s I learned to write C code because I wanted to make games. Decades later I write server software for the web. I had no idea it’d turn into what it has.

Back then about 5-10 million people were using the internet. Now Facebook alone has over 1.7 billion active users worldwide.

Think about the fact that the internet itself has grown by 300 - 500 times as many people using it in 20 years.

There used to be maybe one computer per household in 10% of the households. Now there are like 3 computing devices per person per household (phone, laptop, set top box).

There are billions of phones, laptops, desktops, gaming consoles, streaming boxes, servers, etc. in the world now.

Billions!

Now, consider this fact. The demand for software is hundreds, maybe thousands of times higher than it was twenty years ago. That demand isn’t going away anytime soon.

Soo….

Who is going to write all that software?

For the next couple decades at least it will be programmers. If some kind of automation for software development happens, it will take another decade or two for that to replace existing systems.

To me that means the overall demand for software development will grow for the foreseeable future and anyone who imagines otherwise doesn’t understand the magnitude of the problem.

Or another way to think about it…

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Walmart, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, the US Government, Military, and many, many others are combined worth trillions of dollars and they are all powered by software.

For those companies to continue to make money, they need software. Software is now critical infrastructure the same way roads are critical infrastructure.

All of those entities will continue to invest in their software infrastructure or their trillions of dollars will start to disappear and nobody wants that.

-Brian

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