Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Relationship of Software Engineering, Computer Science, and Programming

Computer science underlies programming rather like physics underlies engineering. You can do some programming or practical engineering with rules of thumb and copying from references, but they will ony take you so far.

What is needed for software engineering to become a reality, rather than a glorified name for programming, is a set of reliable principles for designing and building effective software, that is software that works as expected. Prototyping is the currently most effective way of building software, but it is not software engineering; it is an admission that there is not yet a discipline of software engineering.

From what I have read, even the large scale, high reliability programs are built more by careful programming, testing, and debugging than by detailed up-front design, the way large scale engineering projects are.

The main reason is the incredible complexity of software projects. The only physical products that approach software in complexity are large scale integrated circuits.

Software engineering will be an engineering discipline when the development of a new operating system, the associated utilities, and APIs is as predictable and stable as the design and construction of a new skyscraper.

This is all from general reading and memory, if you agree or disagree with me, please leave links to any sources you may have in comments.

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