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Software Engineering: The Turning Point Disclosure Number: IPCOM000131234D
Original Publication Date: 1978-Sep-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-10
Document File: 15 page(s) / 56K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Anthony I. Wasserman: AUTHOR [+8]


In 10 years, the pursuit of software engineering has produced a wealth of good ideas. The time has come to put them to work.

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This record contains textual material that is copyright ©; 1978 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact the IEEE Computer Society (714-821-8380) for copies of the complete work that was the source of this textual material and for all use beyond that as a record from the SPI Database.

Software Engineering: The Turning Point

Anthony I. Wasserman University of California, San Francisco
L.A. Belady

IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center with contributions from
Susan L. Gerhart
USC Information Sciences Institute
Edward F. Miller, Jr.

Software Research Associates William Waite
University of Colorado
William A. Wulf
Carnegie-Mellon University

In 10 years, the pursuit of software engineering has produced a wealth of good ideas. The time has come to put them to work.

The term "software engineering" was coined in 1968 as a provocative term intended to highlight the need for a disciplined, process-oriented approach to software development. Today, after 10 years of looking into the problem, we have a recognizable body of knowledge about the software development process that begins to resemble the knowledge that underlies the methodologies and practices of more traditional engineering disciplines (see Table 1). This knowledge has led to the creation of techniques that can be used in the several phases of the software life cycle. It has become important now to integrate these techniques into a coherent methodology for producing software, easing the transition between successive phases of the production process. (The authors have separately discussed some of these techniques in the papers on which this article is partly based.)33-38

As we approach the 1980's, we are entering a period that may eventually be seen as a critical stage in the emergence of systematic approaches to software development, not because of the sophistication of the approaches being used (on the contrary, they are still quite primitive), but because we are at a turning point at which the basic notions have fallen into place and have begun to have a broad impact. Software engineering appears to be entering a period of assimilation; the rate of invention and introduction of new ideas appears to be slowing. The delay in technology transfer seems to be on the order of 5-15 years in software; hence, the "first principles" enunciated in the early 1970's are just now beginning to be widely used.

This article represents a consensus of the authors views but does not necessarily reflect their individual opinions or those of the organizations they represent.

As we enter this period, three issues seem paramount. The first is the issue of software componentry -- how to identify or define software components, and how to develop the methodology for integrating them into systems having predictable and demonstrable qualities. The second issue is what, if...