I don't go quite that far back; we did have punch card writers in a high school pod for writing programs in a mock-assembly language called STOP that were sent to the IBM 360 at the school system's central admin, and I took a 270-level class in my first year of college where everything but the APL intro was punch cards and wait-overnight for your printout.
That said, I've made a career out of being self-taught. I'm not a pure hacker who codes for the joy of coding, but I aggressively take on learning whatever is the tool that fits the need of a project. I think I have about ten units of any kind of engineering (my BA is Sociology and Psychology), but I've programmed everything from single-chips to CDC6400 assembler to Smalltalk enterprise apps, and I've built things from Intel single-board trainers to chips that combined digital, analog and photonics on one die.
Setting aside my personal hubris, (whatta loada cr... :) ), I think that there's something to be said for academic coverage of the spectrum of programming (and engineering) concepts, but I hesitate to cheer for the process applied in getting degrees and I certainly do not support the hoop-jumping that's involved in the PE process. My personal opinion is that very few who spend their formative years in college have the real analytical, referential, and associative skills -- not to mention initiative and motivation -- to be useful without several years of being thrown off the deep end or having quality mentorship.
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