Sarah’s parents were kind enough to get me the book The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. for Christmas last year. This is the 20th anniversary edition with an additional forward and four new chapters beyond the original text. The original was published in 1975, the anniversary edition in 1995.
I really enjoyed this book. Sure there were a few sections that discussed obviously outdated issues, but so many of the issues discussed are still relevant that it makes little difference.
“First, my wife, my colleagues, and my editors find me to err far more often in optimism than in pessimism. I am, after all, a programmer by background, and optimism is an occupational disease of our craft.” (page 213)
Multiple times in the book the point is brought up that programmers are optimists by nature. Isn’t that the truth. How many times have you underestimated the scope of a project, or estimated time line? Yeah, we are all guilty of that to some degree.
“In 1975, operating systems abounded: each hardware vendor had at least one proprietary operating system per product line; many had two. How different things are today! Open systems are the watchword, and there are only five significant operating system environments into which people market applications packages (in chronological order):
- The IBM MVS and VM environments
- The DEC VMS environment
- The Unix environment, in one flavor or another
- The IBM PC environment, whether DOS, OS-2, or Windows
- The Apple Macintosh environment.
” (pages 283-284)
This list really stood out to me. I’m sure there will be people willing to argue with me on this point, but I’d say that list is now down to just three: Unix, PC and Apple. Those remaining three have evolved over the years. The availability of open source Unix/Unix like systems have grown and prolonged the Unix environment. The PC market really only consists of Microsoft Windows now. And Apple, who has been on something of a come back in recent years with Mac OS X and other products.
There are plenty of other parts that stood out to me, I mention these two because they reflect something of the person of many programmers and appreciation for the history and change of operating systems over the decades.
If you’ve read The Mythical Man-Month I’d appreciate it if you left a comment about something that stood out to you, I’m curious to hear the insights of others about this book.