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Unformatted text preview: Dating from the first international conference on the topic in October 1968, software engi- neering just turned thirty-five. It has all the hall- marks of an established discipline: societies (or subsocieties), journals, textbooks and curricula, even research institutes. Software engineering would seem ready to have a history. Yet a clos- er look at the field raises the question of just what the subject of the history would be. It is not hard to find definitions. A leading practi- tioner spoke of it in 1989 as the disciplined application of engineering, scientific, and math- ematical principles and methods to the eco- nomical production of quality software. 1 But it is also not hard to find doubts about whether its current practice meets those criteria and, indeed, whether it is an engineering discipline at all. A colleague of the practitioner just quoted declared in 1990 that Software engineering is not yet a true engineering discipline, but it has the potential to become one. 2 From the outset, software engineering conferences have routine- ly begun with a keynote address that asks, Are we there yet? and proposes yet another specifi- cation of just where where might be. 3 Because the field has been a moving target for its own practitioners, historians may under- standably have trouble knowing just where to aim their attention. What is a history of software engineering about? Is it about the engineering of software? If so, by what criteria or model of engineering? Is it engineering as applied sci- ence? If so, what science is being applied and what is its history? Is it about engineering as project management? Is it engineering by anal- ogy to one of the established fields of engineer- ing? If so, which fields, and what are the terms of the analogy? Of what history would the his- tory of software engineering be a partthat is, in what larger historical context does it most appropriately fit? Is it part of the history of engi- neering? of business and management? of the professions and of professionalization? of the disciplines and their formation? If several or all of these are appropriate, then what aspects of the history of software engineering fit where? Alternatively, to put the question in anoth- er light, is the historical subject more accurate- ly described as software engineering with the quotation marks as an essential part of the title? What seems clear from the literature from the fields very inception, reinforced by addresses, panels, articles, and letters to the editor that reg- ularly appear, is that its practitioners disagree on what software engineering is, although most of them freely confess that, whatever it is, it is not (yet) an engineering discipline. Historians have no stake in the outcome of that question....
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