[nSLUG] Lamport on "software culture"

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Sun Mar 23 13:07:18 ADT 2014

In view of the recent discussion of shoddy coding practices shown by Apple,
many commentators mentions the famous "Goto considered harmful".  Here is
"academic" perspective that rings true:

In an interview, 2013 ACM A.M. Turing Award winner Leslie Lamport was asked:

*More recently, you have worked on ways to improve how software is built.
What's wrong with how it's done now?*

People seem to equate programming with coding, and that's a problem. Before
you code, you should understand what you're doing. If you don't write down
what you're doing, you don't know whether you understand it, and you
probably don't if the first thing you write down is code. If you're trying
to build a bridge or house without a
we call a specification--it's not going to be very pretty or reliable.
That's how most code is written. Every time you've cursed your computer,
you're cursing someone who wrote a program without thinking about it in

There's something about the culture of software that has impeded the use of
specification. We have a wonderful way of describing things precisely
that's been developed over the last couple of millennia, called
mathematics. I think that's what we should be using as a way of thinking
about what we build.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia
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