Have we a Human Ecosystem?

James Davenport

Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Bath

Long-lived software is a challenge. This was seen very clearly a couple of years ago in the “US COBOL crisis”, but the reasons are less clearly understood, and are worth exploring. The speaker works in Computer Algebra, where “younger” systems are 30-40 years old, and the algorithmic kernel of SageMath, the newest major system, is actually 55 years old, and the people who can debug it are in single figures. More recently, very substantial retooling was required to enable Line 14, the driverless line, of the Paris Métro to be extended. Having reviewed these cases, the speaker will make some tentative suggestions for the management of long-lived software.

About James Davenport

After graduating, selling COBOL productivity tools, getting a PhD in Computer Algebra, working at IBM (including some interesting cryptography), holding a research fellowship in Cambridge, and teaching Computer Algebra in French, James Davenport settled down at the University of Bath in 1983. As well as teaching a wide range of subjects there, he has chaired various IT Project Boards, acted as security Incident Commander, and developed Bath’s resource in High Performance Computing, and currently moving HPC in to the Cloud (alas more bleeding edge than leading edge). He has also taught Computer Algebra in various French universities (in French) and in Sweden and China (in English!), as well as MPI in Cambridge and Transylvania (also in English!).

His current research centres on developing real arithmetic in the context of Satisfiability Modulo Theories.

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