RE: software progress (RE: Hardware Progress: $319/GF)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Jun 01 2002 - 18:39:12 MDT


I've been writing software since 1980 or so. In my view, there has been
significant progress in the software domain. Obviously, progress in this
domain is harder to objectively measure than in the hardware domain, as
there are no simple metrics like "CPU time" or "memory size." However, with
sufficient effort, it should be possible to compare the man-months required
to create and maintain a software project of a given complexity, then and
now. Maybe someone has done this already.

My own view is that the more complex software projects being undertaken
today, would hardly have been possible using the software tools of 15-20
years ago. Certainly, prior to scalable, distributed-processing friendly OO
software technology, something like Novamente could not have been attempted
by a small team.

I think the Net has made the development of complex software much faster,
because there are so many sourcecode snippets and open-source projects and
messageboards out there to look at. Before the Net, it was a hell of a lot
harder to find useful "lore" about how to solve various difficult software

I don't enjoy using Visual Basic or Visual C++, but these tools have clearly
made it much easier for *average people* to produce software that *average
people* can use. This is not the kind of progress that excites scientists,
but it is an important kind of progress, and it's been accelerating fast.

Creating a distributed application, as Ben H points out, is WAY easier now
than in the 80's or early 90's. There's no comparison. Java and .net make
it easiest, but even in vanilla C++ there are so many handy libraries for
such things out there... this sort of thing didn't exist back in the day....

Software technology has not progressed in quite the way I would have liked
it to. I'd like to see specialized chips for graph rewriting to enable
efficient Etc. Etc. However, there is no question in my mind that software
technology has progressed very rapidly in directions that society has found

Saying software tech hasn't progressed because it hasn't progressed in *your
directions of choice* is like saying hardware tech hasn't progressed because
it hasn't moved substantially toward massively parallel computing...

-- Ben

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Ben Houston
> Sent: Saturday, June 01, 2002 11:25 AM
> To:
> Subject: software progress (RE: Hardware Progress: $319/GF)
> Eugen Leitl said:
> > Software progress is stagnating, and the current software
> > model is locking in current hardware model.
> Not in my world. The new languages I love such as Java and C# do result
> in higher productivity for me -- which in turn means I can write more
> efficient and complex programs with less effort and in less time.
> Modern languages have higher productivity for three main reasons: more
> precise/useful language constructs, managed environments, and better
> designed libraries. Both of these languages, C# and Java, are also
> hardware agnostic in that they both compile into platform independent
> "bytecode". There are now versions of Cobol, C++, Eiffel, and Visual
> Basic that also compile down to platform independent "bytecode".
> I think that software is doing a lot better that you believe. :-)
> -ben

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