Footnote:
Edward Yourdan has a long respected career as a writer on software engineering (particularly object-oriented analysis and design) in books, journals, and newsletters. Yourdan wrote Decline and Fall of the American Programmer in 1994, in which he predicted that the programming industry would soon migrate to foreign soil, much like the business of manufacturing cheap toys for kids burger meals. When this prediction (and others in the book) failed to materialize, Yourdon chose not to apologize, chose not to return the purchase price to everyone who bought the book. Instead he wrote another book, Resurrection of the American Programmer in 1997, which said that, no, programming is staying right in the U. S. of A. and doing just fine thank you.

In March 1998, Yourdon wrote:

"New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and a dozen other cities are going to resemble Beirut in January 2000. That's why I moved out of NYC to rural New Mexico a couple months ago ... The government of the U.S. as we currently know it will fail on 1/1/2000. Period."
Yourdon did soften this stance in October 1999.

In contrast, I wrote in 1999:

"I share with most observers the prediction that Y2K disruptions will be minimal to minor. (I also think that while we'll end up spending $100 billion on Y2K upgrades, the investment will pay itself off within 3 years. Thank heavens that Y2K happened now, when there is something worthwhile to upgrade to: internet-protocol-based e-commerce and b-to-b servers. If the biblical scholars had accurately pegged Jesus' birth date (now estimated at 4 B.C.), Y2K would have occurred in 1996, and we would have wasted the money converting from mainframes to client-server architectures, and wouldn't have the money or fortitude to switch again to internet protocols.)"
Well, I hate to say "I told you so", but I was just about right, and Yourdon was as wrong as can be. Was Yourdon swayed in making his Y2K predictions by the lesson from Hollywood that disaster plots sell well, while those about "minimal disruptions" are doomed to short unprofitable runs at art-houses? Was he playing on his reputation and banking on the fact that the public will buy whatever he offers? In The Deadline Tom DeMarco refers to "the Great Yourdini", a shadowy software engineering expert who appears as a conjurer. DeMarco does this with obvious affection for a leading contributer to his field, but perhaps he sees one too many cheap tricks, and not enough substance from the more recent works of Yourdon.

 

Footnote to footnote: Tom DeMarco's The Deadline is certainly the best novel about software project management ever written, and will likely remain so long into the future (even if another novel on software project management is ever published). I recommend it.


Peter Norvig