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by Gerald M. Weinberg

Adapted from The Psychology of Computer Programming. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. See below for copyright notice.

This is an astonishing book—astonishing in the sense that a person who lives to be 125 years old is astonishing. We are in a fast-changing business. No other computer book, as far as I know, ever lived to be twenty-five years old.

Even more astonishing to me is the fact that I wrote it, because at the time, I never imagined there was anything special going on. I had been writing code, leading groups of programmers, and training and consulting with programmers for about fifteen years. I thought of writing a novel about the computer programming business (which was then little known to the outside world), but I realized I wasn't a sufficiently skilled writer to make anyone believe it. So, on an inspired eight-week vacation in Italy, I wrote the first draft of The Psychology of Computer Programming.

I had, at that time, written a couple of best-selling books on how to program various machines, but Psychology was a new venture for me. I had a hard time getting it published—something that hadn't happened with any of my previous books. One publisher's editors received great internal reviews of the manuscript, but said they didn't believe anybody would buy such a book. Another publisher reluctantly said it would publish it—if I would agree to let it publish some of my money-making "technical" books. I decided I needed a publisher with a bit more enthusiasm than that, so I offered it to four more and—since two years had elapsed—decided I would go with the first acceptance. That came from a company that ultimately fired my editor the day the book came out, "for not understanding the computer publishing field."

In spite of that publisher's opinion, the book quickly became a best-seller among technical titles, running through more than twenty printings and staying in print for twenty-five years—until they sold the rights in 1996 to another company. After some negotiating, I acquired control of the rights and asked Dorset House to publish this Silver Anniversary edition. I had several reasons for doing so:

1. to make the book available to a new generation of software people

2. to offer a sense of history that is often lacking in our field

3. to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

I didn't do it to update the field of software psychology. For one thing, Ben Shneiderman and others are doing a much better job of that than I could. For another, as Ben once remarked, the book is really more about software anthropology than software psychology—and I've continued to write about that in my other books.

Most of all, I think, I wanted to pause and take stock of where I had come in twenty-five years. Though the first edition may not have been a turning point for the industry, it was a turning point for me. Since that time, I've written far less code and done little managing of groups. On the other hand, I've trained thousands of programmers and team leaders, and I've consulted on hundreds of software projects. I've done more code reviewing, designing, design reviewing, requirements development, and requirements reviews. I've especially spent a lot of time training would-be software managers and consulting with them.

Part of me still wishes I could just go back to writing code, full time, and not dwell upon these "other" issues. That's a common feeling in the industry.

One thing I can see clearly now is that the first edition of The Psychology of Computer Programming was a prescription for my own studies, such as the study of teams. I've spent two and one-half decades filling in those topics that seemed both important and insufficiently understood. Looking at the books I've written during that period, I can now clearly see myself filling the "holes." In the period between 1991 and 1997, I decided to wrap up all I knew about the management of software efforts and software people in the four-volume Quality Software Management Dorset House series, taking up the psychological subjects of systems thinking, measurement, action, and change.

With the QSM series, I felt that I had wrapped up the subject that I had started to explore a quarter-century earlier. Looking back over these years, especially with the perspective of the first edition of Psychology, I see that I turned out to be a worse prognosticator than I thought, but to my credit, I anticipated as much. Actually, to put the emotional component on it, it was just like any technical review—worse than I'd hoped, but not as bad as I'd feared.

For this Silver Anniversary edition, I decided to take my own advice to reviewees and not try to hide my errors, for they would be the source of the most learning for my readers. I decided to leave the original text as it was—antiques and all—for your illumination, and simply to add some "wisdom of hindsight" remarks whenever the spirit moved me. I hope you find the perspective brought by this time-capsule contrast as useful to you as they were to me.


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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This excerpt from Psychology of Computer Programming, Silver Anniversary Edition [ISBN:0-932633-42-0] appears by permission of Dorset House Publishing. Copyright © 1998 by Gerald M. Weinberg. All rights reserved. See http://www.dorsethouse.com/books/psy.html. The material contained in this file may be shared for noncommercial purposes only, nonexclusively, provided that this Copyright Notice always appears with it. This material may not be combined with advertisements, online or in print, without explicit permission from Dorset House Publishing. For copies of the printed book or for permissions, contact Dorset House Publishing, 1-800-342-6657, 212-620-4053, http://www.dorsethouse.com, info@dorsethouse.com, New: 3143 Broadway, Suite 2B, New York, NY 10027 USA. Additional rights limitations apply, as presented in the Legal Disclaimer posted at http://www.dorsethouse.com/legal.html.



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