Decade after decade, software systems have seen orders-of-magnitude increases in their size and complexity. This is remarkable — and more than a little scary for those of us who build software. In contrast, imagine how hard basketball would be if it scaled up the same way, with 5 people on the floor one decade, then 50, then 500. Because of this growth, today’s software systems are arguably the largest and most complex things ever built.
Software developers are always battling the ever-stronger foes of complexity and scale, but even though their opponent grows in strength, developers have staved off defeat and even reveled in victory. How have they done this?
One answer is that the increases in software size and complexity have been matched by advances in software engineering. Assembly language programming gave way to higher-level languages and structured programming. Procedures have, in many domains, given way to objects. And software reuse, which used to mean just subroutines, is now also done with extensive libraries and frameworks.
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