To The Great Master with Admiration

I have great admiration for some people who helped build our discipline, Software Engineering. Fortunately, many of

I have great admiration for some people who helped build our discipline, Software Engineering. Fortunately, many of them still are doing it.

Without any doubt, the first one on my list is Fred Brooks. Author of the most popular book in the history of Software Engineering:  “The Mythical Man Month”, author of the most cited paper in the history of Software Engineering and perhaps Computer Science: “No Silver Bullet”, technical leader of the largest software development project in history (OS/360), recipient of the most prestigious awards in Computer Science: Turing Award, ACM Alan Newell Award and countless others (see http://www.cs.unc.edu/~brooks/ feel a bit overwhelmed). Is there anyone else in our discipline who has been both a great leader in Industry and a prestigious researcher admired to the point of winning the Turing Award? Probably not.

Following another genius as Don Knuth, who said “If you find that you’re spending almost all your time on theory, start turning some attention to practical things, it will improve your theories. If you find that you’re spending almost all your time on practice, start turning some attention to theoretical things, it will improve your practice” Brooks is in a place of privilege. He experienced at first hand the difficulties of having to lead a huge development project at a time when the tools available were very limited. And he had the greatness to acknowledge his mistakes and even to document them in “The Mythical Man Month.” To give you an idea about how humble Fred Brooks is, he once said at a conference talking about JCL (Job Control Language) that it is “the worst programming language every built, by any group, for any purpose. And it was done under my management. ”

I personally believe that reading “No Silver Bullet” should be required in Computer Science and Software Engineering Curriculums. It is very important to understand what that paper says in order to understand the inherent complexities of our field.

Another interesting thing is that Brooks was recognized as pioneer of agility, for his speech in favor of evolutionary life cycles, both in No Silver Bullet in in his lecture upon receiving the Turing Award. Dr Brooks is about to publish a new book of essays that has exactly the same title as the conference he gave that day: “The Design of Design.” If all goes well, it will be available in October . It will surely be another jewell as “The Mythical Man Month”. We should all read it very carefully, because if we see what happened with The Mythical Man Month, what he says will be relevant for the next 30 or 40 years

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