Alcoa’s 1958 Plan to Make Programmers

In 2019, I went out to dinner with my father-in-law and his retired friends. I met someone who became a UNIVAC I programmer in 1958.

I asked him how he became a programmer. He said he was in Alcoa’s accounting department for a few years right after college. HR came to him and asked if he wanted to take an aptitude test for a different job.

He passed the test, and so they trained him to be a programmer—he went on to have a decades long career in industrial control software.

He described some of the work to me. A lot of it sounded like data engineering—he said he became an expert in “preparing inputs”. He worked on early projects to computer-control aluminum production.

If you don’t know Alcoa, in the 50’s, they were inventing ways to sheathe skyscrapers in aluminum. They invented pull-top cans.

Kudos to Alcoa for training new programmers—if you are finding it hard to recruit, you might want to follow their lead.