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David B. Black
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There's a simple way to understand the impact of micro-services on programmer productivity: they make it worse. Much worse. How can that be?? Aren't monolithic architectures awful nightmares making applications unable to scale and causing a drain on programmer productivity? No. No. NO! Does this mean that every body of monolithic code is wonderful, supporting endless scaling and optimal programmer productivity? Of course not. Most of them have problems on many dimensions. But the always-wrenching transition to micro-services makes things worse in nearly all cases. Including reducing programmer productivity. Micro-services for Productivity Micro-services are often one of the first buzzwords... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Black Liszt
This is the fourth in a series of examples to illustrate the way that functionality that had been implemented on an older platform appears on a newer platform. See this post for a general introduction with example and explanation of this peculiar pattern of software evolution. This earlier post contains an example in security services software, this earlier post describes an example in remote access software and this earlier post describes an example in market research. Unlike the prior examples, this one is well known and I had no personal involvement. Example: BEA systems Old platform IBM mainframe MVS Old... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2021 at The Black Liszt
Many large companies depend on software. They often have staffs of thousands of people using the best methods and project management techniques, supported by professional HR departments and run by serious, experienced software management professionals. They can afford to pay up so that they get the best people. Why is it, then, that after all these years, they still can't build software that works? Some of these giants recognize that they can't build software. So they buy it instead! Surely with careful judging and the ability to pay for the best, they can at least slap their logo on top-grade... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2021 at The Black Liszt
The vast majority of production software applications undergo a process of continuous modification to meet the evolving needs of the business. Sometimes organizations get fed up with the time and cost of modifying an application decide to replace it entirely. The replacement is most often a brand-new application. When this happens, nearly everyone agrees that a different programming language should be used for building the new version. After all, everyone knows that programming languages have advanced tremendously since the about-to-be-replaced application was written, so it just makes sense to pick a modern language and get the job done. It occurs... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2021 at The Black Liszt
Not long after third-generation computer languages (3-GL’s) got established, ever-creative software types started inventing the next generation. In a prior post, I’ve covered two amazing programming environments that were truly an advance. They were both widely used in multiple variations, and programs written using them continue to perform important functions today – for example powering more hospitals than any competing system. But they were pretty much stand-alone unicorns; the academic community ignored them entirely and nearly all the leading figures, experts and trend-setters in software ignored them and looked elsewhere. Experts “in the know” directed their attention to what came... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2021 at The Black Liszt
The invention and widespread acceptance of the modern database management system (DBMS) has had a dramatic impact on the evolution and use of programming languages. It's part of the landscape today. People just accept it and no one seems to talk about the years of disruption, huge costs and dramatic changes it has caused. The DBMS Blasts on to the Scene In the 1980’s the modern relational database management system, DBMS, blasted onto the scene. Started by an IBM research scientist, E.F. Codd and popularized by his collaborator Chris Dodd, The Structured Query Language System, SQL, changed the landscape of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2021 at The Black Liszt
This post dives more deeply into the issue of Conceptual UI evolution as introduced in this post. Understanding UI conceptual evolution, which in practice is a spectrum, enables you to build applications that have UI's that produce dramatically better results than the competition -- getting more done, more quickly and at lower cost. Whose perspective? The least evolved UI concept looks at things completely from the point of view of the computer – what do I (the computer, which is really the person writing the application) need to get my job done? In this concept, the UI job is conceived... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2021 at The Black Liszt
In prior posts I've discussed the nature of programming languages and their evolution. I have given an overview of the so-called advances in programming languages made in the last 50 years. Most recently I described a couple of major advances beyond the 3-GL's. The purpose of this post is to give a couple real-life examples of how amazing new 4-GL’s and O-O languages have worked out in practice. I was CTO of a major credit card software company in the late 1990’s. Because of that I had a front-row seat in what turned out to be a rare clinical trial... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2021 at The Black Liszt
The cryptocurrency enthusiasts are at it again, with a new name and even more ambitious goals than before: now they want a “national digital currency.” Hurry! The Chinese will beat us to it, and we’ll be left behind! Somehow, no one in the debate acknowledges the obvious fact that we already HAVE a national digital currency. It’s fast, cheap and secure! It has no issue with regulators, and it’s accepted everywhere. Who knew? It’s called … the US dollar. The wild-eyed “national digital currency” groupies prefer to ignore the fact – yes, it’s a fact – that the US dollar... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2020 at The Black Liszt
My car was safely parked in my driveway. A large branch broke off of a tree that had recently been checked by an arborist and declared healthy. Ignoring the arborist’s expert opinion, the branch broke off and fell anyway. My formerly sound, two-year-old car was towed to a repair shop, an estimate for repairs made, and my insurance company declared it not worth fixing. Totaled. But this shocking event had a couple good outcomes. The first was that I ended up leasing a nice new car. The second outcome was some education that is hard to come by, and has... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2020 at The Black Liszt
Who would have thought that the amazing, pioneering and tragic Bronte sisters could demonstrate important things about software programming languages? Not me, until I started thinking about it. I realized that their achievement has a close parallel to what great programmers do: they don’t invent a new language, they use an existing language to express new things, thoughts that were in their heads but which hadn’t before been published. The Sisters I hope you’ve at least heard of these ladies, and even better read a couple of their wonderful novels, among which are Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2020 at The Black Liszt
User interfaces have gone through massive evolution since their first appearance in the 1950's. Lots of people talk about this. But not many separate the main two threads of UI evolution: technical and conceptual. The technical thread is all about the tools and techniques. Examples of elements in the technical thread are the mouse, function keys, menus, and graphical windowing systems. Advances in the technical thread of UI evolution are created by researchers, systems people and systems makers, both hardware and software. People who build actual UI’s generally have to use the tools they’ve been given. The conceptual thread of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2020 at The Black Liszt
I am a computer and software guy with experience in building systems, networks and security in multiple industries. I know only what I’ve read about the voting systems in place in the US. The basic information that’s widely available is enough to make it clear that today’s voting systems were designed using circa 1990 principles without regard to the security methods that were used by the best systems even at that time. In the light of modern systems and security design they might as well have large, blinking neon signs on them reading “Cheat Me.” This has NOTHING to do... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2020 at The Black Liszt
In prior posts I’ve given an overview of the advances in programming languages, described in detail the major advances and defined just what is meant by “high” in the phrase high-level language. In this post I’ll dive into the amazing advances made in expanding programmer productivity beyond the basic 3-GL’s. What's most interesting about these advances is that they were huge, market-proven advances, and have subsequently been ignored and abandoned by academia and industry in favor of a productivity-killing combination of tools and technologies. From the Beginning to 3-GL's The evolution of programming languages has been different from most kinds... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2020 at The Black Liszt
This is the third in a series of examples to illustrate the way that functionality that had been implemented on an older platform appears on a newer platform. See this post for a general introduction with example and explanation of this peculiar pattern of software evolution. This earlier post contains an example in security services software and this earlier post describes an example in remote access software. This example is known to me personally because my VC firm was an investor, and I was involved with them through the life of the investment. Example: Knowledge Networks Old platform Telephone, mail,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2020 at The Black Liszt
This is the second in a series of examples to illustrate the way that functionality that had been implemented on an older platform appears on a newer platform. See this post for a general introduction with example and explanation of this peculiar pattern of software evolution. This earlier post contains an example in security services software. This example is known to me personally because my VC firm was an investor, and I was involved with them through the life of the investment. Example: Aventail Old platform Dedicated IP-SEC VPN Old function Remote access to internal LAN resources New platform Web... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2020 at The Black Liszt
A whole book could be devoted to spelling out the “natural” emergence of features on a platform, and identifying and accounting for the minor variations from platform to platform (the emergence sequences don’t repeat exactly for a variety of reasons). However, the similarities are obvious and universal enough that anyone with longitudinal familiarity with a couple of comparable platforms would recognize them. This is the first in a series of examples to illustrate the way that functionality that had been implemented on an older platform appears on a newer platform. All the examples illustrate the point that, even though the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2020 at The Black Liszt
When a new “platform” emerges (UNIX, Windows, Web, Apps), if you look at any application area and see how it evolved on prior platforms, the application’s functionality will emerge on the new platform in roughly the same order, though often on a compressed timescale. The functionality that is relevant depends on the particular application area. This concept applies both to system and application software. The pattern is: functionality emerges on a new platform in roughly the same order as it emerged on earlier platforms. The timescale of the emergence may be compressed; the important aspect of the pattern isn’t the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2020 at The Black Liszt
I’ve talked in detail about the supposed progress in computer software languages, and explained the two major advances that have been made. All modern software languages are called “high-level languages.” As is typical in the non-science of Computer Science, no one bothers to define exactly what is meant by “high.” This is hilarious, since a single character being missing or out of place can cause a giant piece of software to crash – if there’s anything in this world in which precision is important, it’s in programming computers. But somehow the academic field and the vast majority of the practitioners... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2020 at The Black Liszt
I recently posted what I thought would be my least-read post ever. It's about the subject that has by far the greatest spread by far between "something tech people say is important" and "something tech people avoid thinking about or doing." There are many reasons why this is the case. High on the list is the fact that documentation occupies "below zero" status on the list of things programmers and their managers actually care about. I'm also guilty of this. Look at this detailed post I wrote about the hierarchy of status in programming and you'll see that documentation is... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2020 at The Black Liszt
Nearly everyone knows what “click bait” is – an article title that strongly tempts readers to click and read the article. Part of being a good writer/editor these days is developing a facility for click bait. My proposal for the most click unbaitable or click repulsion title is anything that includes the words “software documentation.” Is there a more boring subject on the planet? Even to software people? Or I should say especially to software people? It’s too bad, because software documentation is a genuinely important subject. Every ounce of effort put into it is not just an ounce of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2020 at The Black Liszt
The unheralded Elizebeth Smith Friedman is a textbook example of the vast gulf that too often separates achievement in a field from getting credit for the achievement. She was a true pioneer of cryptography and code-breaking, leading multiple efforts against the international criminal mob and the Axis in World War II. Unlike most people called “leaders,” she was actually the best at what she did, personally cracking “uncrackable” codes and personally pioneering new methods. She was a leader in the true sense: the manager/boss of the long distance runners AND the runner far in front of everyone else who gets... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2020 at The Black Liszt
There have been two gigantic advances in programming languages, each contributing huge advances in programmer productivity. Since then, thousands of times more attention has been given to essentially trivial changes than has been given to the two giant advances. I described these 50 years of non-advances here. In this post I’ll go back in history to describe the two giant advances that were made in the early days of computing, back in the 50’s, and I’ll tack on the one important corrective that’s been made since then. From machine language to assembler Every machine has one and only one “machine... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2020 at The Black Liszt
I was inspired to examine 50 years of progress in computer languages by an article in the Harvard alumni magazine written by one of the leading figures in Harvard computer activity, Harry Lewis. Lewis graduated from Harvard College the year I entered, and he stayed on for a graduate degree while I was a student there. He says: Thirty veterans of Harvard’s Aiken Computation Lab reunited on January 19, 2020, some 50 years after each of us had a role in creating today’s networked, information-rich, artificially intelligent world. Rip van Winkles who had never fallen asleep, we gathered to make... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2020 at The Black Liszt
I grew up in Denville, a little town in northern New Jersey. I had a friend whose father knew someone who worked at what was then called EMSI, Esso Mathematics and Systems Inc., housed in a big complex on Park Ave. in Florham Park, NJ. I don’t think I even was interviewed, but I ended up with a job there the summer after graduating from the local public high school in 1968! EMSI was a service company, one of over 100 companies in the Standard Oil of NJ group of companies. The purpose of the company was to apply advanced... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2020 at The Black Liszt