In the Beginning: Personal Recollections of Software Pioneers / Edition 1

In the Beginning: Personal Recollections of Software Pioneers / Edition 1

Pub. Date:


Current price is , Original price is $94.95. You
Select a Purchase Option
  • purchase options
    $77.38 $94.95 Save 19% Current price is $77.38, Original price is $94.95. You Save 19%.
  • purchase options


In the Beginning: Personal Recollections of Software Pioneers / Edition 1

Capturing where we are today through a tour of yesterday's achievements and helping us better understand the evolution of computing technology, this book recounts the experiences of those who formed and functioned in the "Pioneering Era." In the Beginning: Recollections of Software Pioneers records the stories of computing's past enabling today's professionals to improve on the realities of yesterday.

The stories in this book clearly show modern concepts such as data abstraction, modularity, and structured approaches date much earlier in the field than their appearance in academic literature. These stories help capture the true evolution. The book illustrates human experiences and industry turning points through personal recollections of the pioneers themselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780818679995
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 12/28/1997
Series: Perspectives Series , #4
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.35(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

In the Beginning

Personal Recollections of Software Pioneers
By Robert L. Glass

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-8186-7999-9

Chapter One


If this is the Computing Age, where do we stand in its evolution? Especially in the software development portion of the Computing Age, how far along are we on the road to maturity?

There are those who would say that the software development field is flawed and, perhaps, even failed. They are the ones who cry "software crisis" (claiming that software is always over budget, behind schedule, and unreliable) and who thereby imply that the field has made little progress since its early days.

But look around you. You probably bought this book in a bookstore that used a bar code system to track price, inventory, and sales. You probably paid for this book with a credit card and fully expect the charge to be correctly reflected in your monthly statement. You may be reading this book on an airplane that was designed with the help of a computerized system, is being flown in part by a real-time system, and for which your reservations were made by yet another system. In your computer-produced newspaper you read about electronic warfare or some new space flight that would simply be impossible without successful computing. And all of those things that we label "computing" or "system" are enabled by software. In short, there is ample empirical evidence in the lives of all of us that we have progressed well beyond the early, flawed phase of the software development field.

We are currently in the "Emerging Era" of the software portion of the Computing Age. We have had dramatic successes in software development over the past 40 years, but we are only a little more than a couple of human generations into the field, and we know there is lots more to be learned. In the corresponding era of the automobile age, for example, we would still have seen primitive things like mechanical brakes and tunable carburetors and wooden-spoked wheels and manual chokes. Our software products and enterprises of today include the (eventually failed) Nashes and Studebakers and Hudsons, as well as the (successful) Chevrolets and Lincolns and Dodges. And we cannot tell, at this point, which will emerge as the winners.

Past is prologue. To better understand where we are today, it helps to consider our yesterdays. This book is about the experiences of those who were instrumental in a preceding era, which I call software's "Pioneering Era" (1955-1965). They are the people who struggled with hardware that frequently failed, computing systems that filled huge rooms, computers so costly that we optimized machine instead of human time, and rudimentary software tools that may or may not have included a compiler, and probably did not include a generalized operating system. The people of this era were pioneers in every sense of the word.

As I began to put together this book, I contacted many of the pioneers of the software field, asking for their personal recollections. I made a deliberate effort to pursue not just the recollections of the Very Visible people in the field, but the recollections of the Less Visible people as well. Truth in history, as we well know, is elusive. What I remember about the 1950s may or may not match what others remember. And because history is often written by the visible members of the field simply because they are visible, I made a special effort to capture the recollections of those less visible but just as real. From the stories in this book, I hope you will be able to form an accurate picture of what it was like for these pioneers of software's Pioneering Era.

In my original contact with potential contributors, I asked them to consider the following as they began to write their recollections:

"I did this and here is what I learned."

"The field at this time was doing X; I {agreed} {disagreed} with it and here is why."

"I worked with some other pioneers, such as L, M, and N, and here is what I remember about them."

"People today say ABC about what it was like in the early days, but my recollection is that it was CDE."

"I was involved with project GHI, which was interesting because it pioneered PQR."

"There was a terribly {funny} {tragic} incident that I was involved in, and here is what happened."

"What we did back then seems strange to us today, but here is what we did and why we did it."

In short, I was looking for a very personal view of that Pioneering Era. You are the judge of how well that attempt has succeeded. The stories that follow may possess style and content as different as the very different pioneers who wrote them, but my hope is that you will find them, at heart, a very human view of what it was like back then. When everyone in the software field was a pioneer!


Excerpted from In the Beginning by Robert L. Glass Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction.

2. Before the Beginning: The Pre-Software Era.

Life Before Software, A Few Reminiscences (David Myers).

3. Setting the Stage: Three Eras of Software History.

Software Reflections—A Pioneer's View of the History of the Field (Robert L. Glass).

4. Making the Market: Vendor Pioneers.

Reflections on a Software Life (Watts S. Humphrey).

How I Watched In Pain as IBM Outsmarted UNIVAC (Norman F. Schneidewind).

5. Solving Problems: Application Pioneers.


An Early Application Generator and Other Recollections (Barry Boehm).

View From Below (Robert N. Britcher).

Almost Thirty Years as a Change Agent (Donald J. Reifer).

Information Systems.

Leo, the First Business Computer: A Personal Experience (Frank Land).

Compu-THEN: Before Megabytes (Ben G. Matley).

Academic Computer Centers

Four Anecdotes (Harold Joseph Highland).


The Prolonged Metamorphosis of a Software Engineer (Robert L. Baber).

6. Pursuing Progress: Academic/Laboratory Pioneers.

Autobiographical Snippets (John M. Bennett).

Closing the Circle (Bruce I. Blum).

Before Memory Was Virtual (Peter J. Denning).

Growing Up with Software Tools (Raymond C. Houghton).

7. After the Beginning: Conclusions.

Biographical Sketches of the Contributors.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews