Showstopper

I just finished reading Showstopper, which has been on my book list a long time. My friends at Gnossos Software (during my summer internship in 1997) recommended it. It details the NT team’s effort and struggle to develop, debug, and deploy Windows NT. Even though Windows NT is an older operating system the book is still an exciting and easy read. Many companies still use NT as their server platform.

My favorite quote from the book is actually a quote from the Mythical Man Month that is woven into the story:

“The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. Yet the program construct, unlike the poet’s words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be. The computer resembles the magic of legend in this respect, too. If one character, one pause, of the incantation is not strictly in proper form, the magic doesn’t work. Human beings are not accustomed to being perfect, and few areas of human activity demand it. Adjusting to the requirement for perfection is, I think, the most difficult part of learning to program.”
– F. Brooks (“The Mythical Man Month”, pages 7-8)