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Decline and Fall of the American Programmer Paperback – June 16, 1993
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a book about case tools. Anybody remember them? Yourdan's argument was that the willingness of Indian programmers to use case tools would enable them to produce good, cheap software at a fraction of the cost of that generated by American 'cowboys'. His strong advice for programmers in the US was to start using mechanistic methods, so that they could also start churning out code like cookies in a cookie factory.
Most probably, Decline and Fall will remain an interesting book for students of computer science to read for many years into the future - not for what it got right, but for what it got wrong. Common wisdom today (which may become foolishness tomorrow) is that American Programmers can't hope to compete against people living in poor nations by trying to undercut them on cost, but only by using their native creativity and willingness to explore new frontiers to create truly new products.
In other words, Yourdan correctly forsaw the future, but badly misjudged the solution.
That said, even the book's thesis is not without it's problems. The author does not seem to take into account that the workforce in the American software industry is much more diverse than it was 10 or 15 years ago, making the situation more complicated than the stereotypical lazy white guys competing against the rest of the world.Read more ›
It's a good book to learn about a range of contemporary (ish) issues in IT - software processes, CASE tools, QA, metrics reuse etc etc. Short chapters and Yourdon's chatty style help greatly. The chapter on recommended reading has some great pointers too.
The negatives are that it's pretty superficial at times and reads very much like a consultant / salesman selling his wares rather than someone who actually runs projects for a living. In particular, the chapter on software methodologies seemed very simplistic to me (and I have had experience of many, believe me!)
Still, all in all I'd recommend this to any IT profesional who feels he/she is only exposed to a narrow range of software tools & methods and wants to know more about what else is out there.
Are there quality issues with the way most commercial software is produced? Undoubtedly. It is to a level where we need self appointed Cassandras screaming of imminent doom? Sorry, but the marketplace determines that. And when it comes to the majority of software, people and companies do buy it. You want perfect, bug free code? Then get customers (more importantly, software producing companies/management) to wait until it is COMPLETELY DONE.
Unfortunately, like most gloom and doomer's, Yourdon has a ready made 'fix' to avert looming catastrophe; surprise! He thinks everyone should follow the Ed methods of doing things. This couldn't make him a boatload of money, could it? Hmmm...
And to top it all off, most of Ed's methods involve 'preventing' the 'evil coders' from fouling the 'beneficent, wondrous' designs of the system architects with their own silly ideas. Sorry, but when you can genuinely perform empirical measurements based on the 'blueprints' of as yet unbuilt software systems, then that idea may finally make some sense. Unfortunately, the software engineering equivalent of the Roman arch has yet to be discovered.
So, if any coders out there are really enamored of all of Ed's 'remedies', then I hope you enjoy being chained to an oar in his philosophical coding slave galley. Yourdon does have some good ideas in amongst the rest, but nothing I haven't heard elsewhere.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book had a profound influence on me when I read it. The same can be said for the organization I worked for at the time and organizations all over the US. Read morePublished on November 30, 2010 by Paul L
the book was delivered in the proper time and went against my expectations. the only problem I observed was that to come slightly damaged -the transport, I sppose - Not a big... Read morePublished on April 30, 2010 by Francisco Moura
This review is more a review of a review than a review of the book which is accurate in predicting the future but enchanted with vacous methodlogies and associated retooling. Read morePublished on December 23, 2003
This is a wonderful and interesting book. Its a little scary with many cries of the sky is falling but seeing the current cut down in IT staffing levels and the number of projects... Read morePublished on July 11, 2003 by Eric P. Medlock
This book is virtually unreadable. While reading along, you may get the beginning of one sentence, and the end of another. Don't waste your money on this book.Published on May 10, 2001 by John Johnson
This book claims that nearly all American Programmers would be standing in unemployment lines in 1999. Please note that everything that Yourdon does is *satire* - not real! Read morePublished on January 7, 2000 by Sam
If the author followed his own guidelines for quality management, he would offer every owner of this book a free upgrade to "Resurrection of the American Programmer", in... Read morePublished on December 20, 1999 by Peter Norvig
I first read this book about five years ago, and loved it. Anyone in the software industry who sees being a software engineer as just "coding" should read this book. Read morePublished on July 8, 1998