Heroes of software engineering

Whether it's the people who invented Fortran, the challenges of polar exploration, the need for more women in software or anything you've ever wanted to Ask the Institute, our blog covers everything that's new and innovative about research software.

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

This is the eighth - and likely the last - in my short series about heroes of software engineering, so I will write about something different. Readers may have noticed that several of my previous heroes are now in their 70s or even 80s, so today instead features some of the current generation of innovators. These are the people behind Dropbox, including founders Arash Ferdowsi and Drew Houston and the men and women of the Dropbox software engineering team.

Think…

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

The next post in my series on heroes of software engineering focuses on Brian Kernighan. First of all an apology to my hero: I’ve been mispronouncing Dr Kernighan’s name for the last 35 years. In checking some facts for this blog piece I now realize the g is silent. Did you know that?

I suspect most readers will…

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

The next post in my series on heroes of software engineering focuses on David Howarth – and the Atlas Supervisor. This software system was so good and revolutionary that Per Brinch Hansen described it as:

“the most significant breakthrough in the history of operating systems”

What came first: the chicken or the egg? In the computer world one might ask “what came first: the compiler or the operating system?” (You might also argue that the question is irrelevant as it was a while before high…

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

The next post in my series on heroes of software engineering focuses on Miron Livny and the men and women of his HTCondor software engineering team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. This is my second post about a team rather than an individual, this time to the designers and engineers of a piece of software that has been around for…

In this series, Ian Cottam (IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester) talks through his heroes of so

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

“Rosetta. The most amazing software you’ll never see.” Apple

Background and a disclaimer

The next post in my heroes of software engineering focuses on a company rather than an individual. Transitive was a spin-out company from my University (Manchester, UK) that started around October 2000. My story today is about how they helped Apple move to Intel x86…

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

Software Engineering Hero #3 in my series is Tim Berners-Lee. 
Of all my heroes in this series of posts, he is perhaps the one who needs the least introduction, as the inventor of the Web (and not the Internet as he often has to correct journalists).


All my heroes “stood on the shoulders of giants” to achieve what they did. The designers of the Internet, with all its established protocols, were Berners-Lee’s giants, as…

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

This is the second in a series of blog posts on my heroes of software engineering. The first post in the series focused on Welsh and Quinn.

#2 Mcillroy and Thompson

I estimate that at least once a (working) day for the last 35 years I have typed into a terminal window a (UNIX) pipeline. Today, for example, on my Mac I did this:

./listusersdropoff <tttt | grep -v manchester.ac.uk | grep -v mbs.ac.uk | wc -l

Which tells…

By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.

This is the first in a series of blog posts on my heroes of software engineering. I hope you will find it (and subsequent ones) of interest.

# 1 – Welsh and Quinn

My first heroes are Jim Welsh and Colm Quinn. Why? Because their 1972 paper [1] was the first one that convinced me that there was a discipline worthy to be called software engineering and that what they did was a tour de force…

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