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The glamour period of programming is over. Disenchanted by errors in billing and ballot counting, and dissatisfied with the quality of computer output, the public wants reliable products more than new ideas. Reprogramming for third-generation hardware has taught programmers to value compatibility--known in other fields as tradition and consistency. Old programming languages never die; each new one gives programmers more to learn. In the future, programmers will spend less time coding new algorithms and more time maintaining existing programs. Eighty percent of their time and effort will go to the unexciting but necessary tasks of checkout, documentation, and production engineering of programs for usefulness. The gain in quality means a loss in diversity, as picturesque old-timers are replaced by sober computer science graduates more like accountants. No economies of scale are discernible. It remains true that the fewer programmers working on a task, the better its chances for success.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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