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Reusing Code

Just as the Mexican builder put construction cost ahead of design considerations, engineers, left to their own devices, will value programming efficiencies more than user needs. The strongest evidence of this is the reuse of code that has been written for some previous project or that can be purchased for some nominal sum from outside vendors. Prewritten code not only saves time, but it has already been proven to be usable by other programmers and to be bug free in operation. One of software's unique properties is that any procedure can be invoked with a single command, but there is no limit to the magnitude of the invoked procedure. In other words, as long as the procedure is already written, all it takes is a single command to employ it. Therefore, any prewritten module of code is a significant boon to programmers. They can plug it into their program as a black box whose inner workings need never be plumbed. The programmer is spared not only lots of coding, but lots of thinking and testing, too. To most programmers, code reuse is more important than almost any other technical consideration. Famous open-source guru Eric Raymond says, “Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to reuse.”

The primary side effect of code reuse is that large portions of most programs exist not because some interaction designer wanted them to exist, but because some other programmer already did the work on someone else's budget. Much of the software that we interact with exists for the sole reason that it existed before.


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