There have been some excellent comments, and one point taken is that everyone else is right; the barrier to entry into programming both as a hobby and as a profession is lower in 2013 than in 1983. Everyone has a computer, anyone can do a little research online, anyone can download free compilers/interpreters/IDEs, etc. I, too, remember paying $300 for Borland C++ 2.0, $100 for a Pascal compiler, $39 for "Extended BASIC", etc. I never really considered the monetary aspect, but it certainly is relevant too.
I think that what can be said is that a much higher percentage of individuals with TRS-80's, TI99/4A's, Commodore 64, Vic20, IBM-PC original, Apple 2, and other 1980-1983 computers dove into programming, at least as a hobby, than owners of computers nowadays. And that's a no-brainer; In 1983 IBM may have advertised with Charlie Chaplin that there were 10,000 software packages available. But early adopters were often people who took an interest in programming. Now there are more programmers than ever. But of the 700 million Facebook users, a miniscule percentage are also programmers. There is not a higher barrier to entry, but there are more paths that a computer user might take, programming being only one of them. And computers have proliferated society to the point that programming has become one of the less common usages of the technology.
Still, I find it hard to understand how someone shows up on his first day of class at a university or community college, taking his first ever programming class, with virtually no previous experience programming. It's as though CS is attracts some people due to its applicability to the job market rather than for the love of programming. I think we see that a lot with professions such as nursing, law, "business"... it's just strange to me to see it happening with CS.
One person mentioned that those who love it and have a mind for it will become programmers. Clearly not everyone loves it, and clearly not everyone has the aptitude for it. I tend to think that the love for it, and the aptitude for it sort of go hand in hand, usually; one is not likely to love something he can't do. That would be quite frustrating. On the other hand, a lot of people end up doing things they don't love. I think it would be awful being stuck in programming for someone who doesn't enjoy it. It's one of those things that if you love it you can't get enough, and if you don't, you would have to be crazy to do it. ;)
In reply to Re: Where does the new generation of programmers begin?