The Tyranny of Transistors: What Counts about Software?

Author: Mary Shaw

Position paper for the Fourth Workshop on Economics-Driven Software Engineering Research (EDSER-4), affiliated with the 24th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE'02), May 2002, pp. 49-51.

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Our intuitions tell us that computer software is vastly better than it was 20 years ago -- more diverse, more reliable, more powerful. However, the aggregate measures we use for software show only slow progress. Meanwhile, computer hardware basks in the glow of Moore's Law, and software seems to pale in comparison. While it is possible that software power does grow sluggishly in comparison to hardware, it seems more likely that hardware reaps the benefits of a better decision about what to count in describing progress over time.  As we pursue value propositions in software, we should consider carefully the values that we pursue.  A good start would be to switch from counting measures of our input effort to counting measures of the results of this effort.


Brought to you by Composable Software Systems Research Group in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

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