The History Of The Software Engineering Field
November 6, 2013
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Interested in discovering how the Software Engineering field evolved?
Historian Robert L. Glass has documented the history of the field in his book In the Beginning: Recollections of Software Pioneers. He notes that the field has always been fast-paced and innovative.
Glass divides the history of software engineering into three periods. Trace the history of the field here, as adapted from Glass’s research:
The Pioneering Era: 1955 to 1965
- Computers are rapidly evolving and software professionals had to continuously rewrite programs to stay up-to-date.
- Glass writes, “The field was so new that the idea of management by schedule was non-existent. Making predictions of a project’s completion date was almost impossible.” Software engineers didn’t even have individual computers; they worked together in a machine room.
- At the time, computer hardware was application-specific and had to be designed with different tasks in mind.
- Software packages are not sold; rather, hardware vendors are giving them away.
The Stabilizing Era: 1965 to 1980
- By this time, a bureaucracy has been established to run and manage the central computer center and the industry in general.
- The IBM 360 is released. Glass notes, “This was the largest software project to date. It put an end to the era of a faster and cheaper computer emerging every year or two. Software people could finally spend time writing new software instead of rewriting the old.” The technology also combined tasks, allow various applications for various businesses to function on the same computer system.
- Demand for programmers rapidly increases.
- Software is gradually becoming a corporate asset. Businesses are beginning to invest in the technology and, consequently, increasing its value.
- Competition between hardware and software industries emerges.
The Micro Era: 1980 to Present
- The Internet has rapidly increased the demand for computer and software technology. Software professionals not only focus on computer programs, but also on web pages and networks such as email.
- The expenses surrounding computing services and technology have dropped dramatically.
- Programming languages have rapidly evolved and simplified.
- Software has extended from static personal computers to more portable devices, including handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Technology continues to evolve rapidly. With devices such as Google Glass in beta phases and new technology constantly being announced, the potential for software engineering is essentially unlimited.