Scott Rosenberg has an op-ed in the Washington Post on the occasion of the Windows Vista launch. In it, he explains how the Vista delays are typical of many large software development projects:
The software business remains full of optimists who, bless them, think they know how to fix their field’s problems and overcome this dismal record. Their confidence springs from the computer industry’s experience of the exponential growth in the capacity of its semiconductor-based hardware. Computer chips have reliably doubled in capacity every year or two for the past few decades, and that has made the increased power (and decreasing cost) of personal computers feel like magic.
But unlike computer hardware — the microchips and storage devices that run programs — software isn’t rooted in the physical world. It’s still written, painstakingly, line by line and character by character; essentially, it’s all made up. Software straddles the wide-open realm of the imagination, where it’s created, and the fixities of everyday reality, where we expect it to work. And so far, it has proved uniquely resistant to engineering discipline.
This op-ed serves as a useful introduction to his new book, Dreaming in Code, which I had the privilege of reading and providing feedback on before it went to press. I’ll post my review of it soon.