Patterns of Software: Tales from the Software Community

Patterns of Software: Tales from the Software Community

Patterns of Software: Tales from the Software Community

Patterns of Software: Tales from the Software Community

Synopsis

In our homes, our schools, and our businesses, computers play an ever-increasing role. But while most of us today can work a computer--albeit with the help of the ever-present computer software manual--we know little about what goes on inside the box and virtually nothing about software design or the world of computer programming. In Patterns of Software, the respected software pioneer and computer scientist, Richard Gabriel, gives us an informative inside look at the world of software design and computer programming and the business that surrounds them. In this wide-ranging volume, Gabriel discusses such topics as what makes a successful programming language, how the rest of the world looks at and responds to the work of computer scientists, how he first became involved in computer programming and software development, what makes a successful software business, and why his own company, Lucid, failed in 1994, ten years after its inception. Perhaps the most interesting and enlightening section of the book is Gabriel's detailed look at what he believes are the lessons that can be learned from architect Christopher Alexander, whose books--including the seminal A Pattern Language--have had a profound influence on the computer programming community. Gabriel illuminates some of Alexander's key insights--"the quality without a name," pattern languages, habitability, piecemeal growth--and reveals how these influential architectural ideas apply equally well to the construction of a computer program. Gabriel explains the concept of habitability, for example, by comparing a program to a New England farmhouse and the surrounding structures which slowly grow and are modified according to the needs and desires of the people who live and work on the farm. "Programs live and grow, and their inhabitants--the programmers--need to work with that program the way the farmer works with the homestead." Although computer scientists and software entrepreneurs will get much out of this book, the essays are accessible to everyone and will intrigue anyone curious about Silicon Valley, computer programming, or the world of high technology.

Excerpt

A year or two ago, I was astonished to get several letters from different people in the computer science field, telling me that my name was a household word in the software engineering community: specifically in the field of object-oriented technology. I had never even heard of object-oriented programming, and I had absolutely no idea that computer scientists knew my work, or found it useful or interesting; all this was a revelation to me. It was a pleasant revelation, but one that I did not really grasp at first; nor did I think much about it. I assumed the people who wrote to me were exaggerating anyway, out of politeness.

Then, one of these people, Marc Sewell from ibm in Atlanta, came to see me and told me much the same, to my face, in a discussion over coffee. Naturally, I assumed he too was exaggerating. When I expressed my surprise and doubts about the depth of this "alexandrian patterns movement," he told me that in any given issue of The Journal of Object-Oriented Programming, there was almost certain to be some mention of my name. To prove it the next day he came with the current issue of The Journal of Object-Oriented Programming. There was in it, an article by Richard Gabriel, the essay that appears in this book as the chapter entitled "The Bead Game, Rugs, and Beauty."

I sat down to read the article; and for the first time, became truly interested in this connection. What was fascinating to me, indeed quite astonishing, was that in his essay I found out that a computer scientist, not known to me, and whom I had never met, seemed to understand more about what I had done and was trying to do in my own field than my own colleagues who are architects.

Indeed, a cool factual appraisal or summary of my lifelong struggle with the problems of what to do in the field of architecture, has rarely been written objectively in the architectural literature. Architects, many of them agonizingly tied to a field which does not work, are mentally and emotionally tied up in the problems of the discipline, are often shocked by what I have said (either because it makes . . .

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