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Chapter 61. Impresario > Impressing - Pg. 196

196 Chapter 61. Impresario Ours is a big business. Even in smaller companies, it can seem like one person can hardly make a difference, much less a lasting impression. I regularly get messages from people who lament that they have no influence, that they are only one small voice in a programming wilderness and have little hope of improving software development practices. Some are programmers and software en- gineers, eager to make a difference not just make more code. Others are managers, in awe of their technical staff, who feel they have little to contribute compared to the jack flash working for them who can modify C code in 15 different open edit windows at once. Influence and impact take many forms. An entire industry or profession can, indeed, be transformed by the acts and contributions of one individual. Edsgar Dijkstra applied the theoretical work of Bohm and Jacopini to program style and, in his historical letter to the editor, "GOTO Considered Harmful" (Dijkstra 1968), triggered a controversy that would spark a revolution in the practice of programming. A young Bill Gates made some right moves in deploying system software for the nascent micro- computer industry, and our business was never again the same. Alan Kaye turned a doctoral dis- sertation into the foundations for a revolutionary language that would help turn objects into a new programming paradigm. Indeed, at the core of contemporary computer programming is really a rather small number of essential ideas coming from a relatively small cadre of innovators. It is not always the best known inventors and creators or the most visible movers and shakers or the most active writers and consultants who make a real impact, however. Sometimes it is others, less known and less honored, who leave the deepest impressions. Consider the impresario. Impressing English is a ravenous language, eagerly borrowing from almost everywhere. The Italian word im- presario means entrepreneur, another borrowing, from the French, meaning one who organizes and coordinates an enterprise. In English, though, impresario often connotes the more merely ceremo- nial supervision of the circus ringmaster or the theatrical host. The impresario is not the band but the tour manager, not the performer but the straw boss, not the engineer but the lab director. None- theless, the power and importance of the impresario may too often be grossly underestimated. Technology-oriented visitors to Australia have often been impressed by the level of discipline and sophistication found within many software application development groups. This is not to say that everyone is first rank or that all the software is "spot on," as the Australians would express it, but just that the effective use of tools and systematic methods is remarkably widespread. The roots of today's best practices go back to the 1970s, when some of the pioneering software methodologists began to visit the antipodes. Because the country is so small and the information technology field smaller still, a surprising fraction of Australian software professionals ended up being trained directly by these pioneers, the original developers and primary proponents of modern methods and practices. Many of those students who came under the early influence of a Constan- tine, a DeMarco, a Weinberg, or a Yourdon have since advanced to management positions or have become consultants and professional leaders in their own rights, shaping modern software and applications development practices.