Computer Programming

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Computer Programmers

Computer programmers held about 568,000 jobs in 1996. Programmers are employed in almost every industry but the largest amount is in the computer and data processing industry that includes companies that write and sell software. Allot of programmers can also be found working for companies that provide engineering and management services, manufacturers of computer and office equipment, financial institutions, insurance carriers, educational institutions, and government agencies. A growing number of computer programmers are employed on a temporary, a contract basis, or work as independent workers because allot of companies demand expertise with newer programming languages or more specialized areas of application. Rather than hiring programmers as permanent employees and then laying them off after a job is completed, employers can contract with temporary help agencies, consulting firms, or directly with programmers themselves. A marketing company may only need the services of several programmers to write and debug the software necessary to get a new database management system running. This practice also enables companies to bring in people with a specific set of skills. Bringing in an independent contractor with a certain level of experience in a new or advanced programming language enables an establishment to complete a particular job without having to retrain their workers. Such jobs may last anywhere from several weeks to a year or longer. There were 20,000 self-employed computer programmers in 1996 and this number is expected to increase. Programmers usually work in offices. Although they usually work about 40 hours a week, programmers may work longer hours or weekends in order to meet deadlines or fix critical problems that occur during off hours. Programmers can access a system directly, but from remote locations, to make corrections or fix problems. Like other workers that spend a long time in front of a computer terminal typing at a keyboard, they are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome or cumulative trauma disorder. Computer programs tell the computer what to do such as which information to identify and access, how to process it, and what equipment to use. Programs vary widely depending on the type of information to be accessed. Although simple programs can be written in a few hours, programs that use complex mathematical formulas or that draw data from many existing systems, require more than a year of work. Allot of programmers work together as a team under a senior programmer's supervision. Programmers write specific programs by breaking down each step into a logical series of instructions the computer can follow. They then code these instructions in a conventional programming language, such as C and FORTRAN. An artificial intelligence language, such as LISP or Prolog; or one of the more advanced function-oriented or object-oriented languages, such as UML, Java, C++, Visual Basic, or Ada. Programmers usually know more than one programming language and since many languages are alike, they can often learn new languages relatively easily. In practice, the language they know or the type of environment they generally work in such as mainframe programmer, object-oriented programmer, or Internet or World Wide Web programmer often refers to programmers. In many large organizations, programmers follow descriptions that have been prepared by software engineers or systems analysts. These descriptions list the input required the steps the computer must follow to process data, and the desired arrangement of the output. Many programmers are involved in updating, repairing, modifying and expanding existing programs. When making changes to a section of code programmers need to make other users aware of the task the routine is to perform. They do this by using comments in the coded instructions so others can understand the...
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