Software Engineering Quotes
"Software is hard," Donald Knuth wrote many years ago,
when software seemed much simpler.
Donald Knuth - Wikiquote
Faire de la bonne cuisine demande un certain temps.
Si on vous fait attendre, c'est pour mieux vous servir, et vous plaire.
Good cooking takes time.
If you are made to wait, it is to serve you better, and to please you.
Menu of Restaurant Antoine, New Orleans
Chapter 2 of
Man-Month (Fred Brooks), 1975
- Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.
- Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof
programs, and the universe trying to build bigger and better idiots. So far, the universe is winning.
- The effective exploitation of his powers of abstraction must be regarded as one of the most
vital activities of a competent programmer.
- Computers are man's attempt at designing a cat: it does whatever it wants, whenever it wants,
and rarely ever at the right time.
- If you lie to the computer, it will get you.
- There is no programming language, no matter how structured, that will prevent programmers from
making bad programs.
- No matter how slick the demo is in rehearsal, when you do it in front of a live audience, the
probability of a flawless presentation is inversely proportional to the number of people watching,
raised to the power of the amount of money involved.
- [This] reminds me of a quotation from somebody that, whenever he tried to explain the logical
structure of a programming language to a programmer, it was like a cat trying to explain to a fish
what it feels like to be wet.
- To me programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking
in the foundations of knowledge.
- Grace Hopper, quoted in Management
and the Computer of the Future (1962) by Sloan School of Management, p. 277
- Programming: when the ideas turn into the real things.
- Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top
of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.
- Premature optimization is the root of all evil.
- Donald Knuth,
Programming with Goto Statements". Computing Surveys 6:4 (December 1974),
pp. 261–301, §1.
- Premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.
- Knuth refers to this as "Hoare's Dictum" 15 years later in "The Errors of Tex", Software—Practice
& Experience 19:7 (July 1989), pp. 607–685. However, the attribution to
C. A. R. Hoare is doubtful.
- All three of these papers are reprinted in Knuth, Literate Programming, 1992,
Center for the Study of Language and Information
- The most important thing in a programming language is the name. A language will not succeed
without a good name. I have recently invented a very good name, and now I am looking for a suitable
- Computers are good at following instructions, but not at reading your mind.
- One in a million is next Tuesday.
- He who hasn't hacked assembly language as a youth has no heart. He who does as an adult has
needed], playing on the French saying that "He who is not a Socialist at 20 has
no heart. He who at 40 is a Socialist has no brain."
- Languages shape the way we think, or don't.
- Computer programming is tremendous fun. Like music, it is a skill that derives from an unknown
blend of innate talent and constant practice. Like drawing, it can be shaped to a variety of ends
– commercial, artistic, and pure entertainment. Programmers have a well-deserved reputation for
working long hours, but are rarely credited with being driven by creative fevers. Programmers talk
about software development on weekends, vacations, and over meals not because they lack imagination,
but because their imagination reveals worlds that others cannot see.
- The best book on programming for the layman is Alice in Wonderland, but that's because
it's the best book on anything for the layman.
- Computer Science is embarrassed by the computer.
- Alan Perlis, "Epigrams on Programming"
- Prolonged contact with the computer turns mathematicians into clerks and vice versa.
- Alan Perlis, "Epigrams on Programming"
- Structured Programming supports the law of the excluded muddle.
- Alan Perlis, "Epigrams on Programming"
- There are two ways to write error-free programs; only the third one works.
- Alan Perlis, "Epigrams on Programming"
- Software and cathedrals are much the same – first we build them, then we pray.
- Sam Redwine [Proceedings of the 4th International Software Process Workshop, Moretonhampstead,
Devon, U.K., 11–13 May 1988, IEEE Computer Society]
- Why bother with subroutines when you can type fast?
string and later passed it back to C, killing 30.
- Real Programmers always confuse Christmas and Halloween because Oct31 == Dec25.
- Don't get suckered in by the comments … they can be terribly misleading.
- The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
- One day my daughter came in, looked over my shoulder at some Perl 4 code, and said, "What is
- Any problem in computer science can be solved with another level of indirection.
- Zawinski's Law: Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which
cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.
- Jamie Zawinski (who called it the "Law of Software Envelopment")
- 43rd Law of Computing: Anything that can go wr Seek Error reading Drive C: Abort, Retry, Ignore,
- Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from a rigged demonstration.
- Restatement of Murphy's reformulation of Clarke's Third Law
- The attention span of a computer is only as long as its electrical cord.
- Beware of programmers that carry screwdrivers.
- C++, where friends can access your privates.
- Computer programmers never die, they just become lost in the processing.
- Computers can never replace human stupidity.
- Computers Unite! You have nothing to lose but your operators.
- Documentation is the castor oil of programming. Managers know it must be good because the programmers
hate it so much.
- Eagleson's Law of Programming: Any code of your own that you haven't looked at for six
or more months, might as well have been written by someone else.
- Gilb's First Law of Unreliability: Computers are unreliable but humans are even more
- Good programming is 99% sweat and 1% coffee.
- If God had intended man to have computers, he would have given him 16 fingers.
- In computing, turning the obvious into the useful is a living definition of the word "frustration".
- Is a computer language with goto's totally Wirth-less?
- Laws of Computer Programming:
- Any given program, when running, is obsolete.
- Any given program costs more and takes longer.
- If a program is useful, it will have to be changed.
- If a program is useless, it will have to be documented.
- Any given program will expand to fill all available memory.
- The value of a program is proportional to the weight of its output.
- Program complexity grows until it exceeds the capability of the programmer who must maintain
- On a clear disk you can seek forever.
- Programmer (n): An organism that can turn caffeine into code.
- Programmers get overlaid.
- Programming Department: Mistakes made while you wait.
- Programming is an art form that fights back.
- Programming would be so much easier without all the users.
- The problem about all graphical programming languages is that when your project becomes complex,
not only will you have spaghetti code, but it will actually look like spaghetti too.
- Small programs are for small minds.
- Software and cathedrals are much the same – first we build them, then we pray. Sam Redwine (This
is a quote from Samuel T. Redwine, Jr. made at 4th International Software Process Workshop and published
in Proceedings of the 4th International Software Process Workshop, Moretonhampstead, Devon, U.K.,
11–13 May 1988, IEEE Computer Society.)
- There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who do not.
- To err is human. To blame it on a computer is even more so.
- Troutman's First Programming Postulate: If a test installation functions perfectly, all subsequent
systems will malfunction.
- Troutman's Second Programming Postulate: The most harmful error will not be discovered until
a program has been in production for at least six months.
- Troutman's Third Programming Postulate: Job control cards that positively cannot be arranged
in improper order will be.
- Troutman's Fourth Programming Postulate: Interchangeable tapes won't.
- Troutman's Fifth Programming Postulate: If the input editor has been designed to reject all
bad input, an ingenious idiot will discover a method to get bad data past it.
- Troutman's Sixth Programming Postulate: Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.
- We don't really understand it, so we'll give it to the programmers.
- Weinberg's Second Law: If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then
the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.
- Whom computers would destroy, they must first drive insane.
- Writing it is easy, understanding it is hard.
- Your program is sick! Shoot it and put it out of its memory.
- Your Zip file is open.
- I think i have found another course of my choice other than computer science, it is what I call
THE SILICON WORLD. Allove (Danjuma)
- Even perfect program verification can only establish that a program meets its specification.
[…] Much of the essence of building a program is in fact the debugging of the specification.
- Fred Brooks (1986), "No
Silver Bullet", Information Processing 1986, the Proceedings of the IFIP Tenth World
Computing Conference, H. K. Kugler, ed., Elsevier Science, 1986, p. 1069 ff.
- Reprinted in the IEEE magazine Computer 20 (4), (April 1987), p. 43 ff.; and
in The Mythical Man-Month
Anniversary Edition (1995),
- Much to the surprise of the builders of the first digital computers, programs written for them
usually did not work.
- Rodney Brooks, Programming in Common Lisp, Wiley, 1985, p. 94
- bug, n: An elusive creature living in a program that makes it incorrect. The activity of "debugging",
or removing bugs from a program, ends when people get tired of doing it, not when the bugs are removed.
- If debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting
- Testing can only prove the presence of bugs, not their absence.
- silver bullet (SIL-vuhr BOOL-it) noun: A quick solution to a thorny problem. [From the belief
that werewolves could be killed when shot with silver bullets.] "Writing code, he (Stuart Feldman)
explains, is like writing poetry: every word, each placement counts. Except that software is harder,
because digital poems can have millions of lines which are all somehow interconnected. Try fixing
programming errors, known as bugs, and you often introduce new ones. So far, he laments,
nobody has found a silver bullet to
kill the beast of complexity."
- Survey: The Beast of Complexity; The Economist (London, UK); Apr 14, 2001.
- From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.
- RADM Grace Hopper, on the removal
of a 2-inch-long moth from the Harvard Mark I experimental computer at Harvard in August 1945,
as quoted in Time (16 April 1984)
- The most effective debugging tool is still careful thought, coupled with judiciously placed
- Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if
you're as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?
- Brian Kernighan, "The Elements of Programming Style", 2nd edition, chapter 2
- Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it.
- A documented bug is not a bug; it is a feature.
- Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.
- As soon as we started programming, we found to our surprise that it wasn't as easy to get programs
right as we had thought. Debugging had to be discovered. I can remember the exact instant when I
realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be spent in finding mistakes in
my own programs.
- Law 1: Every program can be optimised to be smaller. Law 2: There's always one more bug. Corollary:
Every program can be reduced to a one-line bug.
- Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology: There's always one more bug.
- The paradox of software testing: In theory, testing software for correctness is impossible.
In practice, it is given to freshmen because it's the least demanding task available.
- The cheapest, fastest and most reliable components of a computer system are those that aren't
- If computers take over (which seems to be their natural tendency), it will serve us right.
- Gilder's Law: Bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power.
- George F. Gilder, Telecosm: How Infinite Bandwidth Will Revolutionize Our World,
The Free Press, NY, 2000 [specific
- The best way to predict the future is to implement it.
- As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in
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