Certainly, there are many landmark books in software development that have shaped our industry. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (the GOF book) is one really good example. Unfortunately, a good share of people don’t have the opportunity to read some of these great works because, well…it can get expensive pretty quickly stocking a bookshelf. But there exists a treasure trove of published content available online that is equally impactful. Here, in no particular order, are 5 essays that have helped shaped our industry, for better or worse.
- Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond - Discusses the evolution of Linux and provides amazing insight to lessons learned.
- Code as Design by Jack Reeves - Presents the notion that programming is fundamentally a design activity and that the only final and true representation of “the design” is the source code itself.
- Managing the Development of Large Software Systems (pdf) by Winston Royce - Paper widely regarded as that which gave birth to the waterfall development lifecycle.
- No Silver Bullet by Frederick Brooks - We’re still looking, but as this paper points out, there is no silver bullet. The essential complexity Brook’s speaks of is largely why we continue to struggle with the same problems today that we did a decade ago.
- On the Criteria to be Used in Decomposing Systems into Modules by David Parnas - Discusses the important design decisions that impact how we modularize our software systems. Important because modularity is coming to the Java platform, and we need to know how to use it effectively.
I’ll give an honorable mention to Design Principles and Design Patterns by Bob Martin, which discusses key principles of object-oriented design. Many of the patterns in the GOF book adhere to these principles.
These essays are sure to provide a positive and lasting influence. But I’m sure there are more. What am I missing? What do you consider the most impactful software development essays? What would you add to this list?