August 04, 2003
A Delicate Balance
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The only factor that allowed this mistake to continue unabated was the fact that developments in hardware were keeping pace with the burgeoning demands for memory and processor speed required by this technology. Subsequently, the price point for personal computers could be maintained at acceptable levels, even as we were throwing away 99% of the processing power.
Engineers could produce software products rapidly, particularly if they ignored the imperative to allow software reuse, which they did in the interest of rapid product introduction. The result was that each engineer developed their own libraries mostly from scratch, since it took longer to fully understand someone else's object library, which is a daunting task. In addition, using a library under someone else's control meant that you had to keep up with changes in their library, which was usually developed without any consideration of your needs.
This in turn created an environment where the objects were barely tested, since most were specific to a single project, which in itself served as the only testbench. Today, no one really expects software to work properly when first released and it is common to take a dozen or more releases for a software product to “stabilize.” None of this would be acceptable in the hardware world.
Clearly, we are not at the point in ASIC design where we can afford to turn a 50,000-gate design into a five-million gate design to improve our ability to abstract the problem. As laudable a goal as abstraction may be, the end users will not support the extra cost. In fact, it is doubtful that we will get there in our lifetimes.
Meanwhile, until that happens, we should not seriously consider any system of abstraction that looks even remotely like object-oriented design.
Goodman Associates, LLC
(Editor's Note: The following is an on-line entry, dated 1994, written by Dave Beckett at the University of Kent at Canterbury, U.K.
“William of Ockham, born in the village of Ockham in Surrey (England) about 1285, was the most influential philosopher of the 14th century and a controversial theologian. The medieval rule of parsimony, or principle of economy, frequently used by Ockham came to be known as Ockham's razor. The rule, which said that plurality should not be assumed without necessity [or, in modern English, keep it simple, stupid], was used to eliminate many pseudo-explanatory entities. It is believed that he died in a convent in Munich in 1349, a victim of the Black Death.”)
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