The History of Software Development, Software Engineering Revisited
by Dwayne Phillips
The search to find a method to develop software tended to pass over the fact that smart people were doing a good job while those who struggled simply struggled.
Back in the early days, smart persons were writing software. They did it well, their software ran correctly.
Look at the first word, “smart.”
Time moves on. Hardware becomes less expensive, and we have more programmers. Instead of 100 programmers in the US, we have 10,000. Sorry to say, but the fact is the average IQ of the programmer fell.
How did the pioneers write software? They considered the problem and wrote software that worked.
Along come the next 9,900 programmers and the method used by the first 100 smart programmers didn’t work. Software, unless it was written by smart persons, didn’t work.
We needed a better way to do things. We needed a method.
Hey, engineers seemed to build things that worked. Let’s try engineering. So we have software engineering and software engineers. Engineers had requirements, rough designs, detailed designs, tests, building, test, integration, tests, verification and validation.
Let’s do all that.
In today’s terms, software engineering was the early democratization of developing software.
Instead of 100 brilliant mathematicians, physicists, and playwrights writing software that worked, we had 10,000 people from varied backgrounds developing software that usually didn’t work, but when they applied enough engineering, they got some of the software to work.
My theory, and it is a theory because I wasn’t writing software in the late 1960s, is that the engineered software that worked had smart persons working just like the methods that didn’t use engineering. The engineering methods helped keep the less smart persons in the room and understanding a little, but the smart persons carried the day.
I met several companies in the early 1980s who always succeeded in software projects while the software projects from everyone else failed half the time. The succeeding companies had more smart persons.
We hate to attribute success to simply being smarter. That is too personal. Consider, however, that may be the explanation.