Will we never learn?

Déjà Lu Yet Again

by Conrad Weisert
© 2015 Information Disciplines, Inc., Chicago

NOTE: This article may be circulated freely as long as the copyright notice is included.

The April Communications of the ACM contains a four-page Viewpoint comment1 on the poor quality of the program code that many of today's programmers produce. The author's advice is sound and well-written, but apart from a few names of programming languages and computer platforms the article could have been written forty years ago!

Competent programmers will be appalled that such an article is necessary in 2015 and that it had to be published in a prestigious professional publication. At Union Carbide in the 1960s we used to hold Friday afternoon seminars for our professional staff, presenting content that was very similar to the new article's advice. We distributed methodology manuals to every staff member, making clear our commitment to good practice.

One thing has changed, however. In 1966, no well-known expert was publicly advocating not following common-sense principles of disciplined good practice. Anyone who tried to sell our staff on the benefits of "emergent specifications" would have been laughed out of our building.

Enlightened readers will thank Leslie Lamport and Communications of the ACM for those four pages, which we can use to guide our students and younger staff members. We only hope that Leslie Lamport's article won't need to be republished in 2025.

1—Leslie Lamport: Who Builds a House without Drawing Blueprints? pp. 38-41.

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Last modified April 16, 2015