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Decline and Fall of the American Programmer Paperback – June 16, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Mr. Yourdon takes a close look at how U.S. companies can implement object oriented methods, CASE tools, software quality assurance, structured methods, software metrics, and re-engineering. For U.S. programmers, analysts, software engineers, and software development managers.

From the Back Cover

According to Edward Yourdon, software development may soon move out of the U.S. into software factories in a dozen countries unless U.S. software organizations exploit the key software technologies examined in this new publication. Here Mr. Yourdon takes a close look at how U.S. companies can implement object oriented methods, CASE tools, software quality assurance, structured methods, software metrics, and re-engineering. For U.S. programmers, analysts, software engineers, and software development managers.
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Product Details

  • Series: Yourdon Press Computing Series
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (June 16, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 013191958X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131919587
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,920,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter Soucy on August 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
I never bought the book but read it in one sitting at a bookstore a few years ago. I had every intention of buying the book but when I casually started viewing it, I could not put it down. By the time I was ready to make a purchase, I already read the book. (Sorry, Ed). The author is no stranger to controversy and I must admit the book at the time provoked everything from fear and anger to denial in me regarding my chosen profession. Although it's publication predates the emergence of the Internet and the vast changes that have taken place since then, industry guru Ed Yourdon gives a rather plausible thesis as to why software development could move overseas. There is no question that software engineering in India has developed a worlwide reputation for high quality and only now, in the last 3 years has the realization of his prophecy accelerated. However, the main impetus behind this trend has been to take advantage of the cheaper labor pool. It is for this reason I find the author's proposed solutions to be feeble. Increased use of CASE tools, object-oriented methods, and iterative development may improve the quality of American software but doesn't remotely address the enormous salary differential between say, Indian programmers and their American counterparts. Quality and innovation can only go so far and these practices are now already standard and widespread throught the industry.
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.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Celia Redmore on November 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Five years after reading this book when it was first published, I bought a secondhand copy (as well as a copy of Rise and Resurrection) to take another look. Obviously, the American Programmer is in decline, so Ed Yourdan got that right. The question is whether the book has anything important to say to us today.
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.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
HAHAHAHA!!! Ed Yourdon's classic 'the American software industry is going to hell in a handcart any second now, cuz Ed sez so' tome. After the better part of a decade since its original publication, with American software still going strong, the hyperbole about USA programmers sliding off onto the continental shelf can only be taken as comedy.
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Firstly, this is a pretty good read as computer books go. It contains a lot of good information in an easily digestible fashion.
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.
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