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Uploaded on Oct 2, 2014
Recorded: September 22, 1983
Gwen Bell opens this talk with an overview of past and upcoming installments in the TCM lecture series. Bill Poduska then introduces Alan Perlis, who opens his lecture with his view on the life cycles of scientists and engineers. In an overhead slide, he describes software as (1) That what is in the computer and is not hard, (2) Algorithms, (3) Systems, (4) Packages, and (5) Organithms. The last descriptor was coined by Perlis and refers to the evolutionary and ephemeral existence of software. Perlis touches on how hardware has largely driven software development, in addition to software’s applications, end users, and the minds of its developers. He notes the historical roots of software, beginning with the Manchester “Baby” and EDSAC, from 1948 and 1949 respectively. Perlis stresses function as a major issue in software development, but also relays the importance of how disparate parts of programs fit together. Also discussed are the major products, like assemblers and operating systems, which have fostered simpler software development. The costs, limitations, advances in, and needed improvements of software are discussed at length, with an in-depth conversation about APL. Perlis finishes the main part of his lecture by displaying an evolutionary family tree of programming languages created to that time.