Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Four Biggest Changes in Software Development in the Last 40 Years

I was giving a workshop on Test Driven Development today. Being a history nerd (don't get me started about the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire), I was reflecting back on how much has changed in software and how much hasn't. I started programming 42 years ago on punched cards. Here's my list of the most game changing developments in software in the last 40 years.

  1. Duh, It's the Internet
  2. Being able to use Stackoverflow and its kin, we can peruse the minds of thousands of people and find a solution quickly. Online training courses are available to teach us the latest software. It's simply amazing how much more we can create and learn.

  3. Computers are so much faster.
  4. With punched cards at Texas Tech University in the fall of 1976, a diligent student could get in five compile/executes cycles a day. Five. Now you can do that in a few minutes. This changes the way we develop software. Instead of mapping out your entire program on quadral paper using the IBM flowchart template with a Pentel mechanical pencil, we can start programming and build the software iteratively.

  5. Interactive Development Environments (IDE)
  6. Having an IDE that can pop-up all the available methods on an object is such a time saver. Having Resharper to refactor code on the fly, perfectly, is such an asset.

  7. Test Driven Development (TDD)
  8. Test Driven Development encourages us to write software that is easy to test, but more importantly, it demands a layered architecture and encourages small modules. TDD gives us the courage to do massive refactoring. Thank you Kent Beck.

My major professor at Tech use to tell us about a principle of good software engineering, but follow it up with "But, of course, this doesn't matter if you have really good people." That is still true today. The heart of producing good software is excellent people with small egos who have a passion to hone their craft and cooperate with their peers.

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