The Elusive Dream of Software Engineering
Martyn Thomas CBE
Vice President (External Affairs) Royal Academy of Engineering
Programming is easy, and the consequences are everywhere to be seen. During my working life (which has already lasted for most of the time that programmable computers have existed) software has transformed almost everything we do. Decade after decade, exponential improvements in hardware price/performance have driven software into anywhere that seemed likely to be profitable, interesting, mischievious or just good fun. Most of this software doesn't matter much, which is fortunate because almost none of it has been engineered.
Engineers create things to carry out some useful purpose. Creating software can be a particularly complex engineering task but software developers mostly work in ways that would be anathema to most engineers and most software projects take longer, cost more and deliver lower quality than they need to.
This talk explores some of the reasons why the past 50 years have made so little progress in software engineering, suggests how we could recognise a software engineering profession that deserved that title, if it were ever to exist, and what could be done to help it to happen.