Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Quotes about software development revolutions?

Hello well-read JOSers:

I'm giving a talk (to software business types) in a couple weeks about some trends in software to watch for 2004: web services, xml, etc. I want them to be excited about the future but also want to point out that previous technologies were overhyped, and that there is no silver bullet.

I would *love* to open the talk with a pithy historical quote about how some new technology will revolutionize development, something that didn't live up to its promise.

I remember reading somewhere that when Fortran came out, pundits said we'd no longer need programmers since Fortran was basically 'plain english'. If I could find a quote like that, it would be great!

So... anybody know where I might find amusing quotes like this?

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Some links off the top of my head:

Also, the Linux fortunes collection contains a lot of stuff like that, but finding something there is a bit like finding a needle in a (high-quality) hay stack. Mandrake still ships with a complete fortunes collection, so you can look at its RPM or SRPM. Finally, there are some of my collected fortunes and quotes:

Among them, these stand out (albeit it's after the hype has passed):

C++ supports Object-Oriented Programming roughly as much as COBOL supports Functional Programming.

    Shlomi Fish

And here's another one:

There is no IGLU Cabal! They had to write a web application in an API
(which chose to remain nameless) in which one has to call CreateFile with
6 or 7 arguments just to open a file. By the time they were finished,
someone wrote a 30-line perl script that did exactly the same thing.

    Shlomi Fish in Hackers-IL message No. 1871
    ("Perl vs. JavaScript ASP with IIS")

(which is also post-hype)

As for things that indicate the hype:

Xenix is the pinnacle of modern UNIX design and would be used for years to come.

(taken out of the Xenix manual).

Maybe I'll remember more as time goes by.

Shlomi Fish
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Here's a bunch of Bill Gates quotes about OS/2:

A sample:
"I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time. As the successor to DOS, which has over 10,000,000 systems in use, it creates incredible opportunities for everyone involved with PCs."


"This is the right way to develop applications for OS/2 PM. OS/2 PM is a tremendously rich environment, which makes it inherently complex. Smalltalk/V PM removes that complexity and lets you concentrate on writing great programs. Smalltalk/V PM is the kind of tool that will
make OS/2 the successor to MS/DOS".

Mark Smith
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Wait... that last quote isn't Gates.

The first one is till pretty good.

Mark Smith
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I'd like to divert this thread into discussing hypes and things that become very popular without any hype. I recall a few hypes in my time (C++, XML, VRML, Java, Linux) and some things that became popular without any hype (Perl, PHP, HTML, some Microsoft technologies, ANSI C, Flash, etc.). Now, I'm not saying things that are hyped are necessarily bad. Or that technologies that receive very little hype are necessarily good. (there are many crappy technologies out there that aren't getting noticed).

But still: is the hype needed? Note that some technology worlds have their own internal hypes. People who are heavily into the Microsoft world can testify on some of them. Likewise, for people who are heavily into Linux.

Just note that Paul Graham has analyzed part of the phenomenon in his (very good) Java's Cover article:

Shlomi Fish
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

> I remember reading somewhere that when Fortran came out, pundits
> said we'd no longer need programmers since Fortran was basically
> 'plain english'. If I could find a quote like that, it would be great!

I liked Fortran until I learned C (Blue C book) in 90, and I liked it until I started work with Java in 96. UML is probably more revolutionary than web services.

Evgeny Gesin /
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Don't have a link, but my first boss had an old paper he
would always show whenever someone got hot and
bothered about some software fad-du-jour (aka,
world-altering revolution, paradigm shift, etc).  It was
a paper describing a language and software methodology
so advanced and so powerful, and so easy to use, that
programming as we know it will become obsolete.

The "downside" discussion was that programmers would
be unemployed and would need retraining.  The paper was
dated 1961, and was discussing FORTRAN IV.

The irony was that the paper was probably more right
than most: FORTRAN IV _was_ a revolution, as up to
that time virtually all nontrivial development was at best in
assembly language or in direct byte-codes.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

How about how Bill Gates has, for many iterations now, proclaimed that the latest release of Office or Windows is "the most important release in Microsoft's history". For people with historic memory, this statement gets to be pretty humorous. Every new variant of Office, or Windows now with new themes, is introduced as the most important software revolution the industry has ever seen.

Dawn Gnuth
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

A bunch here too...

Interaction Architect
Tuesday, December 30, 2003


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Python - why settle for snake oil when you can have the whole snake?

-- From Usenet posting by Mark Jackson, June 1998

Tom Hathaway
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Punditry about computer science gives me gas and a pain in the ass. I've lived with this sh** for going on twenty years. The net effect is to create an expectation in the minds of people who control money that software development will become effortless and will be de-skilled.

I don't have any exact quotes (the Paul Graham stuff is pretty excellent for specific quotes.)

But on this subject, I recall working for a small struggling stupid software startup in the early 90s. The owner, my boss, would constantly regale me with his own wisdom as gleaned from "Business Week" that glibly stated that OOP would remove intricacy, abstraction and complexity from software development and would essentially reduce new software development to assembly of Legos on some sort of CASE system.

Dumbasses! Not only the writers but the overbearing butthole I worked for at the time.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

quotes tend to be the funniest.  Here are some, and there are more at

"It is not my aim to surprise or shock you -- but the simplest way I can summarize is to say that there are now in the world machines that think."
-- Herbert Simon, 1957

"Within a generation the problem of creating 'artificial intelligence' will be substantially solved."
-- Marvin Minsky, 1967

Machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work that a man can do.
-- Herbert Simon, 1965 [When will this guy learn? -- ed]

Incidentally, I remember a sysadmin explaining to me gently that UML would obsolete programmers.  Nice guy, but..

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Oops, meant to say, "AI quotes tend to be the funniest"...

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Check out - quotations from the World of programming.

Thursday, January 1, 2004

a couple that I think are suitable for a meeting with the suits.

The successor to politics will be propaganda. Propaganda, not in the sense of a message or ideology, but as the impact of the whole technology of the times.
-- Marshall Mcluhan 

The workers and professionals of the world will soon be divided into two distinct groups. Those who will control computers and those who will be controlled by computers. It would be best for you to be in the former group.
-- Lewis D. Eigen

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history -- with the possible exceptions of hand guns and tequila.
-- Mitch Ratliffe   

If you don't know how to do something, you don't know how to do it with a computer.
-- Unknown 

Legends of prediction are common throughout the whole Household of Man. Gods speak, spirits speak, computers speak. Oracular ambiguity or statistical probability provides loopholes, and discrepancies are expunged by Faith.
-- Ursula K. Le Guin 

Friday, January 2, 2004


Friday, January 2, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home