Software Engineering, part 1

In this multi-part series, I look at software engineering as a separate discipline from Computer Science. For the software professional’s daily practice, I believe SE is a better degree, and I explain why. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in SE as opposed to CS. Earlier posts are found at:
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
| Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven

Software engineering? That’s just a different name for computer science, right? I mean, what’s the difference?

Or so I thought when I started reading Professional Software Development by Steve McConnell. I was arrested by a story from the book about a boiler explosion in Texas in 1937. At the time, the state of Texas did not require engineers to obtain a license. The engineers of this particular boiler made unprofessional mistakes ultimately leading to the explosion. The tragedy was that the boiler was the core of the heating system of a school, and it killed 300 children when it exploded.

The boiler explosion eventually led to the state finally requiring engineers to be licensed. What caught me off guard about this story is that the part of the boiler that malfunctioned is software today, and software developers could be responsible for the same tragedy if they aren’t properly trained.

This is the first post in what will be a series here on the blog about software engineering. I will continue posting on other topics simultaneously, but I want to really explore the topic of software engineering. It is not a very well understood area among software developers, in my experience. I’ll keep each post short and focused on a single point and hopefully that will help things be simple and clear.

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