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Anecdotes: The NATO Conferences from the Perspective of an Active Software Engineer Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129599D
Original Publication Date: 1988-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 11 page(s) / 43K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Doug Ross: AUTHOR [+2]


SofTech, Inc. Waltham, MA

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 9% of the total text.

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Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Anecdotes: The NATO Conferences from the Perspective of an Active Software Engineer

Doug Ross

SofTech, Inc. Waltham, MA

When asked, by the panel organizer Jim Tomayko, to provide some "thoughts as you remember them on software engineering when you were at the NATO conferences in the late '60s," I was somewhat taken aback. My memory is notoriously faulty, and besides -- I went to the conferences as a budding peddler (although I didn't realize that at the first one), for SofTech was started almost exactly between the first two conferences. Having taught the first graduate course in software engineering in the 1968 Spring Term at MIT, I knew very well what I thought the subject was about, and I was eager to see what the rest of the world thought, too. The Garmisch Conference Report book (Naur and Randell 1969 i was not of much help in refreshing my memory, however, for the editors said, regarding the main section covering my contribution (Section 5.3.2 Concepts).

The above title has been chosen, perhaps somewhat arbitrarily, for a report on a discussion about the basic techniques or ways of thinking, that software engineers should be trained in.

It is perhaps indicative of the present state of software production that this topic was one of the most difficult to report on. (p. 96)

As the first to comment following Doug McIllroy's famous (Section 8.2) paper, Mass Produced Software Components, which masterfully introduced the idea of "a components factory" (not as is widely misquoted, a "software factory"), I briefly mentioned the "features feature" of the AED macro system, which allowed for example:

(Ross:) ... a generalized alarm reporting system in which you can either report things on the fly, or put out all kinds of dynamic information. The same system gives 14 different versions of the alarm handling.

To which Doug responded:

(McIlroy:) It seems that you have automated some of [the] types of variability that I thought were more speculative. (p. 151)

At the NATO conferences, as well as on numerous occasions as a member (since 1966) of IFIP Working Group 2.1 on ALGOL, I found that people simply weren't yet ready to learn from our AED experience. I was repeatedly only partially understood, and (especially in my efforts to ban the word "ref" from the language, so that, like AED-0 in use, it would be "object-oriented") I was shouted down that I was talking about future features perhaps suitable for ALGOL Y, whereas the group was trying to settle on ALGOL X first as we struggled toward what became ALGOL
68. Later, the same was true even closer to home, for although IBM documented some of the influences of AED on the development of PL/1 (Tabory 1966), MIT's Project MAC and Bell Labs were adamantly independent of our work in their use of PL/1 for the development of MU...