Timeless lessons from 50 years of software development writing

Wow! Software development evolves at a breakneck pace. The marketing hype surrounding new software development tools and techniques exacerbates this sense of headlong rushing forward.

And, the ‘material’ of software is utterly tractable, just words. It is unimpeded by intractable molecules of wood or steel or concrete, as are traditional endeavors to which it is compared, such as, bridge construction or rocket science. Software development is so akin to pure thought that it seems to have no inertial mass and therefore no discernible terminal velocity.

“The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from thought-stuff”

Dr. Frederick P. Brooks Jr, The Mythical Man-month, 1975

In this context most authors who write about software development have little patience for references to history or lessons from the past.

And yet, the more things change the more they stay the same.

After all, computing power expands as Moore’s law and network connectivity races towards trillions of connected nodes, but, humans don’t evolve quite so quickly. And, at least for now, programmers are still human.

Therefore, my aim in this series of Insights posts is to revisit some of the most well read books of their day and send a few postcards from the past to you, Gentle Reader.

When I notice a recurring theme which still seems relevant, I’ll write a few paragraphs and maybe, abscond with a graphic or two. All in hopes of enlightening our current situation and avoiding the same old mistakes.

Lessons from The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks