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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

ACM and the Professional Programmer

Vinton G. Cerf

In the very early days of computing, professional programming was nearly synonymous with academic research because computers tended to be devices that existed only or largely in academic settings. As computers became commercially available, they were found in private sector, business environments. The 1950s and 1960s brought computing in the form of automation and data processing to the private sector and, along with this, a growing community of professionals whose focus on computing was pragmatic and production oriented. Computing was (and is) still evolving and the academic community continued to explore new software and hardware concepts and constructs. New languages were invented (and are still being invented) to try new ideas in the formulation of programs. The introduction of time-sharing added new territory to explore and, in today's world, cloud computing is the new time-sharing, more or less.

ACM was created by the inventors of computing and the focus is clear from the expansion of ACM: Association for Computing Machinery. We are, of course, about 70-plus years into the evolution of computing. ACM is, itself, 67 years old, having been founded in 1947 (I was three years old at the time!). As we look at the landscape today, we see a rich and varied tapestry of software and hardware platforms on and through which computing researchers and professionals pursue their interests. This is not to suggest that researchers are not professionals. Far from it. The point is only that the focus of these groups differs in many respects but may overlap when new processing algorithms are sought and new hardware concepts are needed. Quantum computing, still in its infancy (and maybe in its fantasy), is a case in point where new conceptual algorithms may be needed to take advantage of the unusual computational properties associated with quantum theoretic principles.

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