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The Psychology of Computer Programming

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  515 ratings  ·  52 reviews
This landmark 1971 classic is reprinted with a new preface, chapter-by-chapter commentary, and straight-from-the-heart observations on topics that affect the professional life of programmers.Long regarded as one of the first books to pioneer a people-oriented approach to computing, The Psychology of Computer Programming endures as a penetrating analysis of the intelligence ...more
Paperback, Silver Anniversary Edition, 292 pages
Published October 21st 2005 by Dorset House Publishing Company, Incorporated (first published 1971)
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Oct 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
TL;DR: don't waste your time, browse this blog instead.

I was lured to this book by the title and ratings, and the latter still puzzle me.

First of all, I cannot praise this book based on its contents because if there were any insights at the time of the first edition, they are at best commonplace today. How people engage in programming has changed a lot—environment, tools, languages, standard practices, they all have changed. Psychology has changed a lot (and the guy still swears by MBTI, that te
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: software developers, software testers, computer science students
Recommended to Sharon by: BookMooch
I picked up this book on a whim, purely based on the title. I didn't look at the copyright info or the introduction first, where I would have learned that Gerald Weinberg first wrote about programmer psychology in 1971.

To my surprise, much of it aged well. Weinberg took an interesting approach when releasing a 25th anniversary "silver edition." Instead of editing out all of his references to COBOL, Fortran, and PL/I, or replacing them with anecdotes about C++ and Java, he left everything intact.
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An insightful collection of essays that still resonate today even though some of its anecdotes reference punch cards. Egoless programming remains its strongest practice and one that is still not the norm. It's also staggering in its prescience. Although sometimes under different names, he predicts unit testing, code analysis tools, and countless other great ideas. I highly recommended it.
Yevgeniy Brikman
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a book about "computer programming", but about computer programmers. It holds up remarkably well more than 40 years after its publication date because even though the technology changes rapidly, the people creating it do not.

Of course, not everything in the book has aged well. The discussion of "other programming tools" in the final chapter is fairly specific to an era of punch cards and shared terminals and should mostly be skipped. Also, there are some fairly dated views on the rol
Frank Naitan
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some very good take-aways to keep in mind WHILST your writing your code.
Dylan Meeus
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recent I have read The Psychology of Computer Programming, written by Gerald M. Weinberg. The book was originally published in 1971, though it got republished in 2011. (I read it on a kindle paperwhite and it looked great! So don’t worry about the age of the book in case you fear it won’t look good in e-book format).

Even though the book was written in a time before the public internet, Java, Javascript, smartphones and many more things we take for granted today, a lot of the content still rings
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computer-science
Weinberg was one of the earliest authors who realized that computer programming is a human activity, and has a lot in common with other human activities. A programmer is reluctant to see the flaws in his code, so it must be checked by others. A programming language should be orthogonal because it is hard for a programmer to keep in his head, which features are enabled in which context. A programming project could never move forward if all interactions between the programmers follow the up-and-do ...more
Scott J Pearson
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is misnamed, as the author admits. It should be named "The Anthropology of Computer Programming." It studies the culture of computer programming rather than the psychology of the practice. Fortunately, despite being written over forty years ago, it succeeds at its task for the reader today as well as for the original reader.

If you can move past the references to dated languages and programming practices, this book elucidates many observations about how programmers work. It's like readi
Aug 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
I was very disappointed. The title seemed so promising, but the book was just full of anecdotes and half-baked ideas. To his credit, Weinberg says early on that he only wrote the book to get people thinking about the psychology of computer programming. And he really did get me thinking about it and gave some interesting insights, but I was really hoping he would have thought things out more than he had.
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Michael Bayne
Apr 20, 2013 rated it liked it
The occasional interesting tidbit, but mostly truisms and observations on processes that have changed a lot over the decades.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely fantastic book, delightfully written, full of (evidently timeless) wisdom, and with a very poignant epilogue. The end-of-chapter questions and bibliographies are worth reading too.

Weinberg deals with the social and psychological aspects of the craft of programming with both studies and stories, and is always careful to point out where a lack of thought can lead one astray.

None of the software, systems, or hardware discussed in the book are relevant today, but it turns out t
Max Bolingbroke
- Some chapters are terribly dated because they are very particular to the (long-outmoded) tech of the time
- The psychological literature has moved on in some areas -- note that this predates even Myers-Briggs!
- There are some kernels of good advice and entertaining war stories from the author's consulting career. The general lesson is timeless: computer programming is a human activity and thus is worth considering from a "psychological" (human factors) perspective.
Jan Holcapek
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: paperback, own
Sometimes a bit hard to read as it is more of a scientific report yet written for a broad audience rather than easy-to-read kind-of-self-help bestseller. Some parts obviously obsolete in terms of technology (machines, languages, tools), others (not so surprisingly) still relevant - those revolving around human mind.
Tomas Janousek
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A bit long, but (perhaps suprisingly) still very relevant, as we still keep repeating the same mistakes as 50 years ago. I expected the Programming Tools chapter to definitely be outdated, but even that one isn't — it predicts TDD, mutation testing, and other techniques that still aren't as widely used as they should be. From the earlier chapters I'd highlight the concept of Egoless programming.
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book has great early chapters. However, I do find the latter part of the book a bit more tedious as the author is trying to address a more social aspect of computer programming from a technical standpoint. I think it's hard to write about something social when the writer is approaching it as an engineering problem to solve.

There are few major takeaways on computer programming:

1. Think of computer programming as a social event. It is a group of people trying to build a product together. It is
Alexander Holbreich
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is not interesting today if you're familiar with the topic. So no surprises for me. But need take into account the age! of the first edition! Interesting from historical point of view.
Tiago Massoni
Nice insights for research. But too much there does not apply anymore.
Steve Bitner
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm sure this was a poignant book 30-50 years ago, but it misses the mark in the 20-teens.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 stars considering that she is almost 50.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: computer-science
Programming as a human behavior
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
It looks like a textbook, but it's a light read, observations and anecdotes of programmers and teamwork from the punch card days; technology has changed, people haven't.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
there are a lot of interesting ideas in the book, but the contexts and examples are very outdated for me.
Ubaldo P.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Computer science evolves, but people's mind remains the same: it is an awesome book, full of still valid insights after 50 years.
A must read.
Apr 12, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is not all that far away from the silver anniversary of the publication of this silver anniversary edition. Therefore, there is enough elapsed time for an effective look-back and what was a look-back.
It is a fact that the effective shelf life of computing books is generally limited to the number of years that you can count on the fingers of one hand, excluding the thumb. This one is an exception, the content is timeless. It is true even though many of the processes and tactics for running
Mark Seemann
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: software
Although it was first published in 1971, most of this book still feels up-to-date, as long as you can ignore the occasional reference to punch cards and tapes. Despite all the change in software development, apparently some things don't change much. How we interact with each other, computers, and source code, remain stable.

The text still seems relevant, and it contains some anecdotes that I recognise because they simply seem to have entered the general software development mythology. Apparently,
Jaroslav Tuček
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for programming managers everywhere ... alas, that's probably too much to hope for and programmers will have to settle for reading it themselves. Read it, think about the raised issues, answer the questions at the end of each chapter - you'll never look at the office the same way again.

The text is over 45 years old and the code snippets in languages of the day such as PL/I or FORTRAN may be quite hard to appreciate today. Additionally, the book makes some que
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: software engineer
❗ The book is must for everyone who participate in software development process.

45 years old book, but it aged well. Human are still the same. It would be nice to see how Agile methodology was grounded on psychology, what it solves and what not.

More important -there is no modern books on the same topic.

The book is very dense. It touched lots of topics. For example, there is an opinion that programming was more female-friendly in 60-70s. Author shows stereotypes about females - he suggests tile
Sami Lehtinen
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Like Mythical Man Month, this book was written in another era of computing. Nonetheless, many concepts, like egoless programming, and the effect of seemingly unrelated workplace changes to coding, like the location of the coffee machine, still apply today. Even the more aged comments are still informative of the history of computing for programmers like myself, who've grown in the world of fast personal computers and very advanced operating systems. I think I understand my co-workers better now ...more
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Gerald Marvin Weinberg (October 27, 1933 – August 7, 2018) was an American computer scientist, author and teacher of the psychology and anthropology of computer software development.

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