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No Silver Bullet Essence and Accidents in Software Engineering

Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

There is no single development, in either technology or


management technique, which by itself promises even one order-ofmagnitude improvement within a decade in productivity, in reliability,
in simplicity.

The statement above was quoted from the article of Fred


Brooks, No Silver Bullet, where he had generally extrapolated that
there is no magical bullet that will lay down the folklore monster
(werewolves) to rest. This statement fundamentally tells that theres
no promised single order-of-magnitude improvement between the
crisis and decade-development in software engineering.

The system of software engineering comes to an embedded


cultural matrix of applications, users, laws, machine vehicles and
human institutions. The matrix holds the factors that continually
interact to force changes in software products. These changes
leads to vast effects such as missed schedules, blown budgets, and
flawed products. Thus, a desperate cry is heard for a solution to
make software costs drop as rapidly as computer hardware costs
do.

I was indeed delighted by the figure of speech Brooks have


used on his article to initially describe the monstrous predicament in
software engineering. He considered a werewolf as the analogy of
software dilemmas because of the folklores monsters unexpected
transformation from an innocent familiar creature to horror and that
there is no silver bullet for it. Even a decade of progressive weapon
development will not produce a solid solution to kill the werewolf.

Having concurred myself to Brooks point of view, the natural


occurrence of software makes it unlikely that there will be any silver
bullet for software crisis and no inventions that will partake the
productivity, reliability, and simplicity in software like what
electronics, transistors, and large-scale integration did for computer
hardware. Brooks believed that the hardest part of constructing a
software is the specification, design, and testing of the conceptual
construct.

I was impressed how Brooks asserted two classes of difficulties


of software based on Aristotle, the essential difficulties and
accidental difficulties. These irreducible essences are produced
from the very nature of software. While the accidents came from
the software production.

Initially, the difficulties inherent in nature of the software


(essence) was discussed. There were four irreducible essence
properties

of

the

modern

software:

complexity,

conformity,

changeability, and invisibility. Complexitys complication lies on the


patterns outline of software which isolates essence itself more often
than the complexity. Thus, in general, Brooks believed that the
pattern works through not considering its non-essential complexity
properties.

Complying in accordance with socially accepted conventions or


standards creates the conformity property as an essential difficulty
of software which I truly agree on. Another property of the essence
is the softwares changeability which goes with how fast time is
transcending. Software must progress among time because of the
technologys rapid development.

The invisibility of software forms an essential difficulty for its


development. You cannot visualize software and it is not embedded
in space. Other fields have geometric abstraction that produces
powerful tools such as floor plans and scale drawings. In terms of
software development, like Brooks elaborated, it has no ready

geometric representation in the way that land has maps, diagram on


silicon chips, and connectivity schematics on computers.

Accidental difficulties are considered coming from the softwares


implementation and testing. The keys to these accidents were found
to reduce the impact. Though these are as greatly effective through
the period of time the article was being written. I believe that these
solutions were vastly improved as of now. High-level languages
helped the programmers to reduce and eliminate rendering or
translating step on patterns, operations, and such on registers and
bits. Other solutions are time-sharing, unified programming
environments,

object-oriented

programming

and

artificial

intelligence.

The everlasting crisis on software continues up to this interval of


juncture. Even there is no magical bullet that will lay down all the
werewolves. I believe that the vast refinement of humans
knowledge ever so often will invariably create a bullet we not
exactly seek but will aid the softwares horror.