Software and Its Impact

A Quantitative Assessment

by Barry W. Boehm

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Summarizes what is known about computer software. U.S. software costs exceed $10 billion annually, plus the greater indirect costs of development delays and software errors. Programming productivity is influenced by: individual differences (up to 26:1); online programming (median 29 percent more efficient); language (2-4:1); development criteria (speed/efficiency); learning curve; and many other factors. Testing and checkout take as long as design and development. Total time is reduced by: more effort on analysis and design; validation-oriented languages; various forms of structured programming; good management techniques; and building on earlier experience (often ignored). Software can be started before hardware on "software first" machines simulating the hardware via microprogramming — with valuable feedback to hardware design. Overall system development cost is minimized by very careful analysis of user requirements and by maintaining 50 percent to 100 percent more computing capacity than absolutely necessary. Unreliability remains a serious problem; statistics on error sources are summarized. Usage measurement and certification research are essential. A quiz is appended. (Prepared for Datamation.)

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