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Two Heads Are Better than One
MAR 09, 2015 07:25 AM
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Two Heads are Better than One
 
Agile Careers
To me, pair development is a no-brainer. It’s more fun than working alone, and you get a little of the benefit of the wisdom of the crowds but without the overhead of ineffective meetings and quality gates that method usually brings.
 
Many people equate pair programming with XP. Ward Cunningham was excitedly telling me about pair programming at OOPSLA in 1993. I also ran into Paul Chisholm who had also been using it. Combined with my experience, that made three. Three occurrences make a pattern, and I wrote it down as a pattern after the conference. It was published at the first patterns conference in August 1994.
 
Laurie Williams approached me in 1998 asking my suggestion for a PhD topic. I suggested Pair Programming, and her subsequent work led to a book on pairing (together with Robert Kessler) in 2002.
 
Then in 2011 Joe Dager asked me about the origins of Pair Programming on behalf of author Karen Martin, who had traced Pair Programming’s origins to P. J. Plaugher (it amazed Joe that it came from the 1970s). So I sent out some inquiries in August. On August 27 Trygve Reenskaug replied:
 
Anne Lise Skaar and I did a large (75000 lines Smalltalk code) project combining literate programming and pair programming in the middle to late 80ties. The experience was reported in a talk at OOPSLA-89. We worked together sitting in front of a common screen for more than a year, possibly even more than two… Ward Cunningham and Kent Beck were mentioned in the paper. 
 
In a reply from Ed Yourdon on the same day, the P. J. rumour gains ground:
 
If anyone in my old company, YOURDON Inc, deserves any credit at all, it would have been PJ Plauger. He was instrumental in persuading me to get UNIX in our company (which had a $10,000 license fee at the time, a sum of money which Plauger lent the company, interest-free!). And even the dumb typewriter-like terminals at the time cost about $3,000 -- so we couldn't afford to get very many of them.
 
That forced programmers to work together on one Teleptype. But what capped it off was this reply from Jerry Weinberg later that day:
 
I learned to pair program (on paper — we didn't even have terminals back in the 1950s) in Los Angeles, from Bernie Dimsdale, who learned it from John von Neumann. I don't know if it has any history before then, but that's way back to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the 40s.
 
There were some responses of a different color. On that same day Brian Kernighan wrote:
 
I have no recollection of any of the history of pair programming, and I certainly have no involvement with it at all.  I definitely plead not guilty.
 
which Doug McIlroy confirmed the next day:
 
I'm not familiar with "pair programming” as a formal concept, but if it refers to having two pairs of eyes on every piece of code, it would apply to very little early Unix code. Ken and Dennis were a pair of programmers, but they split the work.
 
Last night over beers, I learned of a “new” variant on this theme called Mob Programming from Woody Zuill. It’s a good idea and many folks are embracing it. It, too has history. I remember that Joe Davison, Ricky Spiece and Martin Biernat were doing this in Bell Laboratories in the 1990s.
 
Pairing is great, and it’s not new. I’m sure Ada and Charles were doing it back in 1843. Learn to pair and have some fun.
 
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