tsJensen

A quest for software excellence...

Reliability Equals Simplicity

I am extremely impressed by the sage wisdom of Sir Charles Antony Richard Hoare's The Emperor's Old Clothes given at his acceptance of the Turing Award in 1980 and subsequently published by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 1981. Here are my favorite excerpts. I hope you will read the entire text using the link below.

"You know, you shouldn't trust us intelligent programmers. We can think up such good arguments for convincing ourselves and each other of the utterly absurd."
...
"Programmers are always surrounded by complexity; we cannot avoid it. Our applications are complex because we are ambitious to use our computers in ever more sophisticated ways. Programming is complex because of the large number of conflicting objectives for each of our programming projects. If our basic tool, the language in which we design and code our programs, is also complicated, the language itself becomes part of the problem rather than part of its solution."
...
"At first I hoped that such a technically unsound project would collapse but I soon realized it was doomed to success. Almost anything in software can be implemented, sold, and even used given enough determination. There is nothing a mere scientist can say that will stand against the flood of a hundred million dollars. But there is one quality that cannot be purchased in this way--and that is reliability. The price of reliability is the pursuit of the utmost simplicity. It is a price which the very rich find most hard to pay."
...
"The mistakes which have made in the last twenty years are being repeated today on an even grander scale."
...
"If only we could learn the right lessons from the successes of the past, we would not need to learn from our failures."
...
"To have our best advice ignored is the common fate of all who take on the role of consultant, ever since Cassandra pointed out the dangers of bringing a wooden horse within the walls of Troy."

The Emperor's Old Clothes
Sir Charles Antony Richard Hoare
Creator of the Quicksort algorithm
1980 Turing Award Winner
© 1981 ACM 0001-0782/81/0200-0075

Full text here in PDF.

Having accidentally browsed into this today, I reiterate the axiom that complexity is the enemy of sound software development and hereby recommit to following the path of simplification, learning more lessons from my successes to avoid more failures and to sometimes keeping my best advice to myself.