When someone works with computer and does not have proper knowledge of scripting or programming or simply the person does not know enough of features of the software or hardware, the person can start doing tedious work that consists of repeating one sequence of actions. Few examples:

  • changing a date in some documents – instead of using the search & replace feature of the text editor, the person has to read the text, look for the date to be replaced and rewrite that manually.

  • writing nearly the same letter for many people — edit text, click Print, repeat (instead of automating that).

  • adding a title text to a large set (hundreds or more) of videos — open their favorite GUI video editor, add the text, render, wait, repeat (instead of using some kind of batch processing, either as part of the video editor or using tool specialized to batch processing like ffmpeg).

What can I call that tedious work with computer, which arises from not having (or not knowing) a program for performing the task?

The answer should be one word, but I can use multiple words if needed.

  • 1
    That’s known as the brute force method.
    – Jim
    Sep 24, 2022 at 18:49
  • I think it's just inefficient. There's a continuum here. Many senior developers and architects construct systems that would make Rube Goldberg blush for all the unnecessary complexity, yet they are expert on the tools. There isn't anything special about the fact that it's computer work or their level of expertise.
    – jimm101
    Sep 24, 2022 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


Not a single word, "Menial computer work".

  • 1
    While that is menial computer work, I’d still call it that even if the user made full use of search and replace and other tools.
    – Jim
    Sep 24, 2022 at 19:30

Back in 1977, when I had my first (and last) job doing tedious data entry work at a computer keyboard, the term that programmers used for people like me was number cruncher, and the work I did was referred to as number crunching. These terms were some times shortened to cruncher and crunching.

Here is the entry for number-crunching in Eric Raymond, The New Hacker's Dictionary, third edition(1996):

number-crunching n. Computations of numerical nature, esp. those that make extensive use of floating-point numbers. ... This term is in widespread informal use outside hackerdom and even in mainstream slang, but has additional hackish connotations: namely, that the computations are mindless and involve massive use of brute force [defined elsewhere in the dictionary as "a primitive programming style, one in which the programmer relies on the computer's processing power instead of using his or her own intelligence to simplify the problem, often ignoring problems of scale and applying naive methods suited to small problems directly to large ones"]. ...

At my place of work, however, the term was applied to people who weren't programmers at all, but rather data inputters—and the "brute force" aspect of the task was the repetitive entry of countless data points by hand, followed by transferring the input data to a university mainframe computer over what amounted to a teletype line (after hours, so the competition to use the computer was somewhat less stiff). Another part of the job was proofreading reams of six-digit numbers generated from digitized map coordinates, compared to which the number crunching was a treat.

As computer work has evolved to encompass mindless natural-language work as well as mindless numerical work, the short form crunching has become more apt than number crunching as an umbrella slang term for all such drudge-work, although I don't know how widely it is still used in computer workplaces (if at all).

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