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Circuit engineering is a discipline that has done the job right, and genetic engineering is at least trying to do the job right. Both have managed vast complexity and achieved a high level of public trust. Software engineering could take lessons from either discipline, and this is not simply an academician's lament; the cost of software is enormous and risk to public safety daunting. Many of us regard the 1968 NATO conference as the birth of software engineering, which was then regarded as the design of computer programs and software-intensive systems within a performance, quality, and economical framework. Like circuit and genetic engineers, software engineers should look first to the underlying science for vocabulary, methods and tools. Software is the hope and means for progress in science and in better industrial products, yet software engineering seems to be languishing in a dark prison of its own making. Professional societies, industry associations and government regulators must certify products in narrow specializations. Programming language compilers is an area that is sufficiently mature to support effective certification protocols. The software field must find a way to bind university preparation with industry practice.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2004