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The Psychology of Computer Programming : Silver Anniversary Edition [Paperback]

Gerald M. Weinberg
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 1998 0932633420 978-0932633422 2 Silver anniversary ed
This landmark 1971 classic is reprinted with new commentary and a Preface from the author.

Long regarded as one of the first books to pioneer a people-oriented approach to computing, The psychology of Computer Programming endures as a penetrating analysis of the intelligence, skill, teamwork, and problem-solving power of the computer programmer.

Returning to topics that are strikingly relevant to today's issues in programming, Gerald M. Weinberg provides a characteristically fresh perspective on his original insights, highlighting the similarities and differences between now and then. Using a conversational style that invites the reader to join him, Weinberg reunites with some of his most enduring, straight-from-the-heart observations on the human side of software engineering.

Dorset House Publishing is proud to make this important text available to new generations of Weinberg fans -- and to encourage readers of the first edition to return to its valuable lessons.

From the Epilogue

". . . the reader who has really been touched by this book will start to work on the operating system he carries around in his own central processing unit -- his head. That will be his reward."

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The Psychology of Computer Programming : Silver Anniversary Edition + An Introduction to General Systems Thinking: Silver Anniversary Edition
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Product details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset House Publishing; 2 Silver anniversary ed edition (1 Sep 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932633420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932633422
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 246,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
I read this book fifteen years ago and it changed the way I wrote programs. I do not have any doubts that reading this book made me a better programmer, analyst and team leader. It made me think about what I was doing, why I was doing it and why the people around me were motivated to do what they did. It gave me insights into how to adjust my interactions with other people and thus get the best out of them with their willing cooperation.
Originally I borrowed it from the University library, but this recent reprint gave me the chance to buy my own copy and reread it with fifteen years more experience. It is still a very good read, in spite of the rather dry title. It is well written with clear arguments and Weinberg does not pull his punches.
The book was written in 1971 and as a result the technology is very dated with a lot of discussion about PL/1 and punched cards. However, the technology is not actually that important. This book is about people and they have not changed in the thirty years since this book was written. Many of the same situations outlined by Weinberg have happened to me and people I know. The questions for managers and programmers at the end of each chapter are still totally relevant. People are still making the same mistakes.
Each chapter contains a large number of anecdotes and an analysis of them. What did the people do wrong? What did they do right? What should they have done differently? Most importantly - what can you learn to stop yourself making the same mistakes? What warning signs should you be on the lookout for?
The book studies programming as a human activity, as a social activity and as an individual activity. There is also an additional section on programming tools and languages.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just a fantastic read 8 July 2003
See how little the industry has really changed in the past 10 or 15 years.
We may be all XP and UML today, and not SSADM and JSP, and Java and .NET rather than Cobol and Fortran, but the same problems exist and the same mistakes are still being made
Read it and then reflect, it certainly makes you think about IT
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Technical progress is illusion 26 July 2009
This is surreal book. After almost forty years not much has hanged. Some details are a bit outdated, but mostly the book is as relevant as it must have been at the time of writing. The book is worth of reading for two reasons. Firstly anyone who is computer professional should be aware of history, and the book is piece of living history of the computer science & engineering. Secondly the book gives comfort. Problems of programming have been known for long time, but there are ways how to live with the problems and such ideas are almost as old as problems.

George Santayana; 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it'. Unfortunately this book (like so many other excellent books) has not teach most of computer professionals and that's why the whole industry is in endless repeat loop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The bigger picture 30 Aug 2010
By M.I.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As programmers and software developers dealing with the details of code construction and software implementation, we often forget keeping an eye on the bigger picture of what we are doing and why. This book reminds you that you are part of a bigger picture, where psychological aspects play a crucial role as well. Especially when you are part of a team, programming must be seen also as a social activity, and not only as an individual activity. This is the part of the book that I liked most. This book should be a compulsory reading for team leaders and managers, who still consider programmers as black boxes where you give orders and code comes out. As already other readers have pointed out, considering the perspective provided by the book, it is amazing how little things have changed from the 70s.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silver anniversary edition hits gold 28 Feb 2001
By B. Scott Andersen - Published on
The silver anniversary edition is an updated version of the classic work originally published in 1971. How can this still be relevant? Easy: people haven't really changed.

Weinberg did something courageous in his updated text. Instead of whitewashing history, he let his original text stand, unedited, and simply commented on each chapter separately. The approach worked for me, making an already entertaining text a joy to read.

What is all this about? Weinberg writes "This book has only one major purpose--to trigger the beginning of a new field of study: computer programming as a human activity, or, in short, the psychology of computer programming. All other goals are subservient to that one." Indeed there has been much study of computer programming as an art and as a discipline for individuals and for groups. This book may represent the beginning of that noble effort.

Don't be put off by the technology Weinberg occasionally uses within the text. At the time of this book's writing, FORTRAN, PL/1, and APL were in common use and OS/360 was the defacto standard. If echoes of the past bother you, ignore them! Instead, concentrate on Weinberg's main topic: the people who develop software systems. For example, consider the following: "...the average programming manager would prefer that a project be estimated at twelve months and take twelve than the same project be estimated at six months and take nine. This is an area where psychological study could be rewarding, but there are indications from other situations that it is not the mean length of estimated time that annoys people, but, rather, the standard deviation in actual time taken." Of course this notion applies as much today as it did then. Weinberg provides numerous, powerful insights throughout the text that have stood the test of time. He got it right then--and it is still right.

The book is well researched and contains many stories. All ring true and some made me laugh out loud. If you don't see a little of yourself in this book, you aren't a computer professional. Buy it, read it, and then leave it on your manager's chair. It will do both of you a world of good.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Condensed, highly quotable software wisdom. 0% redundancy! 29 Nov 1999
By Iyad El-Baghdadi - Published on
What prompted me to buy and read this book was Steve McConnel's recommendation in Code Complete. After reading Psychology from cover to cover, I have become a Weinberg fan!
The book is a true jewel - not deficient, not redundant. Every sentence means a lot, and carries insight and pure wisdom. The book demands your utmost attention. Weinberg speaks with precision, simplicity, grace, and wisdom. I found myself quoting him very often! The anecdotes are memorable and relevant - you'll find yourself narrating them to others!
Things I liked most: The entire section on "Egoless Programming". The first three parts of the book are amazingly relevant, although the book has been written over 25 years back (I didn't even exist back then!)
Things I liked least: The last part "Programming Tools" seems to be the only part that's dated. It may be more meaningful to someoone who has experienced such tools and languages.
Now I look forward to reading Weinberg's other books, including "Becoming a Technical Leader", "The Secrets of Consulting", and the "Quality Software Management" series.
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless way to build software 5 Jan 2000
By Charles Ashbacher - Published on
One of the growing movements in software development is the use of patterns. Based on the work of Christopher Alexander as described in his books, A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, 1977 and The Timeless Way of Building, Oxford University Press, 1979, it entered the computing field with the publication of the classic book Design Patterns by Gamma et. al., Addison-Wesley, 1994. A design pattern is a reusable meta-design that can be applied in many different contexts.
The timeless adjective can also be applied to this book by Weinberg. Originally written in 1971, the only parts that are dated are the descriptions of the hardware. All points dealing with the human elements of software creation are just as valid today as they were twenty five years ago. Furthermore, as long as the human psyche stays as it is, they will continue to be valid. Despite all of our technical and physical advances, there is no reason to believe that human nature has changed in the last three thousand years. As so many writers point out, the high failure rate of software projects is not due to technical factors but human ones. Weinberg deals with many of these points and offers simple advice on how to solve the psychological problems of software development. In many ways, his solutions can be considered patterns as well.
I listed this book as one of the best books of the year in my annual column published in the September, 1999 issue of Journal of Object-Oriented Programming and could probably do so again in an other twenty five years.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good info on collaborations, but short on details and dated 22 Dec 2003
By Lars Bergstrom - Published on
This book has a wealth of information on how programmers work when in groups, and is a useful read for both managers and individual contributors alike. Many of the fuzzier, less-quantifiable people issues that affect programmers are covered well.
However, it really suffers in three ways:
- All of the examples and technology details are dated to the point of distraction.
- The typography appears to be photocopies of the original text, and really looks terrible. Couldn't they have reset it?
- Not a lot of concrete advice.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still great after all these years 3 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on
If you need to inspire creative, independent people to work together, you'll learn a lot from this book. Smart, sensible, and non-obvious desc riptions of what makes a good team.
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