19 March 1999
Normally your daily news links are interesting and informative;
that's why I check your site regularly. But the Max Eskin piece you
linked to today is quite simply uninformed drivel. His heart may be in the
right place but It is very obvious that he has no experience in
the commercial software development business, and based on
some of the comments he made, his technical knowledge is highly suspect
One example will suffice. Study the PDP-8 instruction set as
an example of a simple processor? Is this guy joking? Does he actually
know the PDP-8 instruction set, or any other processors for that matter?
If he did he would know that the PDP-8 had a really screwed up
instruction set, and a very odd architecture. I should know. My very
first hack was modifying a PDP-8 machine code binary loader to duplicate
The reason commercial software is crappy has nothing to do
with university comp sci courses, although it might help if they
spent less time on the intellectually interesting theoretical stuff
which is almost useless in the real world, and more time on the boring
stuff like debugging skills and development process discipline.
On average it takes two years of real world experience
before the average comp sci grad can be trusted to write code that will
work without too many headaches. For comparison, it only takes
around one year for the average programming literate non-comp sci grad to
produce trustworthy code. This conclusion is based on 16 years
commercial shrink-wrap experience, 12 years as a lead programmer type.
And dont ever ask me about comp-sci PhD's...
The real reason for crappy software is that there is
currently no legal regulation for the quality of computer software.
Until the government starts regulating and imposing legal penalties for low
quality in software, just like in any other consumer product,
software will continue to be crappy.
Until then the pattern of the last twenty years of the PC
software business will continue, crappy low quality software will
drive out high quality stable software. This is because software
companies are selling in what is termed in economics an uninformed market. So
every dollar invested in product quality by a producer is a dollar wasted, and every
dollar spent in locking up distribution channels is a dollar well spent.
That's why the average software company spends $3 on marketing for every
$1 in spends on product development. Locking up the channels is job 1,
producing a quality product is job...whatever.
Roll on the product liability law-suits, that's what I say.
- Joseph McConnell
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