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A Tale of Two Futures
January/February 1998 (vol. 15 no. 1)
pp. 23-29
With apologies to Charles Dickens, the likely future of the software industry is this: it will be either the best of times or the worst of times-or both. For those who have enjoyed a career consisting of good times year after year, the natural assumption is that next year will bring more challenging projects, more exciting technologies, more income, and even the possibility of lucrative stock options. But those who have nightmare glimpses of software's dark side worry that the good times are coming to an end and that the impending Year 2000 crisis may plunge us all into several years of decidedly unpleasant times. These good- and bad-times scenarios may well coexist. That a hotshot Java programmer can earn $250,000 per year won't prevent other software professionals from being unemployed; we've already seen this during the past decade, when highly paid mainframe programmers found themselves replaced by less expensive PC programmers. Software is now a huge global industry with some three million professionals who call themselves programmers, software engineers, or some similar title; several million more people hold jobs that depend directly on the fortunes of internal IS/IT departments or software producers such as Microsoft and IBM. Although it's convenient to think of the term "software developer" as a generic job description, like carpenter or plumber, the field actually encompasses dozens of different specializations, many so divergent their practitioners can barely communicate with one another. Given software development's breadth and diversity, I think it highly unlikely the entire industry will enjoy boom times in the coming years. Likewise, I doubt that the entire profession will collapse. But some generic issues and problems will likely affect the spectrum of software developers. How we respond to them will determine whether we enjoy success or failure.
Citation:
Ed Yourdon, "A Tale of Two Futures," IEEE Software, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 23-29, Jan.-Feb. 1998, doi:10.1109/52.646826
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