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The Psychology of Computer Programming

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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  454 ratings  ·  45 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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Sharon
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.
...more
Bill
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
...more
Valia
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
...more
Ushan
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
Kenny
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.
Volkan
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Meh.
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.
Mathieu
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
...more
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.
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.
Jan Holcapek
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, paperback
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.
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.
Tiago Massoni
Nice insights for research. But too much there does not apply anymore.
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.
Marshall
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
...more
Wanasit Tanakitrungruang
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.
steve
Apr 12, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charles
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
...more
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,
...more
Oleksandr
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
...more
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
...more
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
Andy Love
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this back in college (20-some years ago), several times; it's an entertaining investigation of the people who create software - and how their psychology affects the resulting products. Even after 20 years I recall Weinberg talking about a case where petty jealousies in a programming team led to errors in program output years later (after an upgrade) - errors that were only uncovered after some reminiscing by the original team gave a clue to where the new error might be: not in the section ...more
Alistair Warner
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computing-texts
I first came across this book probably in the late 80's. Even then some of it seemed a little dated and I'm sure it must seem even more so now. However, despite all of that, I would still strongly recommend this book to anyone who ever gets involved with any form of software development or more generally any aspect of creativity in highly technical fields - particularly where teamwork is required.

Egoless programming is just as pertinent now as it ever was to Gerry when he wrote this book.
Vladimir
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: swe
+ a book with code snippets in PL/I and memory measured in KB is fun to read
+ anecdotes supporting the author's ideas are also fun
+ maybe there were some good points I'll find useful - we'll see
- the language is a bit complicated: some sentences are just huge and hard to parse
- there's too much introductions, motivations and random musings
- some of the questions posed are obsolete, some have been answered definitively during the last 40 years
Alex Railean
This is an excellent book, the ideas it promotes are still relevant today (several decades after the it was published).

It is quite interesting to observe how languages evolved, how some of them got things right... And how some are throwing programmers into traps that were known many years ago.


Overall, I really enjoyed this one!
Daniel
Dec 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a programmer that has spent most of his time working along, The Psychology of Computer Programming provided some interesting insights into team dynamics. I wish everyone that I will have to work with (and for) in the future will have read his book.
Greg
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
amazing book! it's interesting to read about programmers and their problems 40 years ago and see that actually nothing's changed. great great great book. I have enjoyed reading it and surely learnt a lot during reading.
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I've always been interested in helping smart people be happy and productive. To that end, I've published books on human behavior, including Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, The Psychology of Computer Programming, Perfect Software and Other Fallacies, and an Introduction to General Systems Thinking. I've also written books on leadership including Becoming a Technical Leader, The Secrets ...more
“Fisher's Fundamental Theorem states—in terms appropriate to the present context—that the better adapted a system is to a particular environment, the less adaptable it is to new environments.” 1 likes
“In fact, the average programming manager would prefer that a project be estimated at twelve months and take twelve than that the same project be estimated at six months and take nine. This is an area where some psychological study could be rewarding, but there are indications from other situations that it is not the mean length of estimated time that annoys people but, rather, the standard deviation in the actual time taken. Thus, most people would prefer to wait a fixed ten minutes for the bus each morning than to wait one minute on four days and twenty-six minutes once a week-. Even though the average wait is six minutes in the second case, the derangement caused by one long and unexpected delay more than compensates for this disadvantage. If” 0 likes
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