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The Psychology of Computer Programming (Silver Anniversary) Paperback – Aug 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset House; 2 Silver anniversary ed edition (August 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932633420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932633422
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #840,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Recently I was working with a group of professors who were rethinking the programming curriculum for Japanese computer science students. They knew what they wanted their students to learn, but they struggled in knowing just how to accomplish the skill instruction. I understood their problem, but only minimally. They should have recommended Weinberg's book because it really captures the tensions that are played out for teachers, students involved with programming, and it would have helped me make more informed colleague. As one interested in education and designing learning environments, I learned a whole lot about the complexity of studying/developing programming and programmers, and Weinberg increased my empathy for my computer science colleagues and their students. This book gives a view from a experienced programmer and instructor and depicts the challenges that programmers face. Chapter 12 on the principles for programming language design would have been helpful for our group; and this book covers many other related areas like group work, the variation of challenges, problem solving, instruction and more. Weinberg's great contribution however, is to highlight how the human factors such as personality and intelligence influence how programmers go about their tasks. I was turned on to this book through Gause and Weinberg's other book, "Are you lights on!" Both books are highly recommended. I have come to understand my programming friends a whole lot more because of reading this book, and am able to be more sensitive to my colleagues and engineering students are struggling with master this skill. When programming instructors, friends or students have bad days writing code, or keeping their sanity, I can suspend judgment, knowing a bit more of the problems he/she is working with. I recommend it for these reasons.
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Format: Paperback
The silver anniversary edition is an updated version of the classic work originally published in 1971. How can this still be relevant? Easy: people haven't really changed.

Weinberg did something courageous in his updated text. Instead of whitewashing history, he let his original text stand, unedited, and simply commented on each chapter separately. The approach worked for me, making an already entertaining text a joy to read.

What is all this about? Weinberg writes "This book has only one major purpose--to trigger the beginning of a new field of study: computer programming as a human activity, or, in short, the psychology of computer programming. All other goals are subservient to that one." Indeed there has been much study of computer programming as an art and as a discipline for individuals and for groups. This book may represent the beginning of that noble effort.

Don't be put off by the technology Weinberg occasionally uses within the text. At the time of this book's writing, FORTRAN, PL/1, and APL were in common use and OS/360 was the defacto standard. If echoes of the past bother you, ignore them! Instead, concentrate on Weinberg's main topic: the people who develop software systems. For example, consider the following: "...the average programming manager would prefer that a project be estimated at twelve months and take twelve than the same project be estimated at six months and take nine. This is an area where psychological study could be rewarding, but there are indications from other situations that it is not the mean length of estimated time that annoys people, but, rather, the standard deviation in actual time taken." Of course this notion applies as much today as it did then.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book in 1972 (it set me back almost ten bucks!) and read it cover to cover in a single night.
Weinberg spoke to the human situation of programming and as a very young programmer I found the book excellent.
However, I have seen his ideas systematically distorted in practice. The idea of programmer "humility" is all very well: but our society does not reward the humble, and the notion that one must be humble has transformed software developers from the uppity hippies of the early 1970s to a class of neo-monks, laboring to illuminate the sacred texts of a society that is obsessed, not with humility, but with power and control.
As Weinberg was well aware and retails in his book, "structured programming" has a definite mathematical meaning that was proven by two Italians in the 1960s: the result was that you can write any conceivable program using a surprisingly small set of logical patterns.
However, the phrase "structured programming" has in fact been generalized by both programmers and their managers. "That's not structured" means in practice "I don't understand it." It has been inappropriately generalized to apply to programmers and has been used as a term of art by those who would discriminate on the basis of age.
In the artistic arena, deliberate introduction of new paradigms is usually benign. The Dutch artist Piet Mondrian gained great power in his art by limiting himself to what be considered "structured painting", for in his mature style, Mondrian refused to use other than lines at right angles and primary colors.
In the purely scientific arena, parsimony is also benign.
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