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Subdivide

All real software problems, the sort that programming professionals confront daily in their jobs, are too big and complicated to solve. The only completely solvable programming problems are those toy applications and academic exercises found in textbooks and taught in all-day tutorials. This is one reason why academic computer scientists can waste entire careers on elegant mathematics and methods of formal proof that are hopelessly inadequate to everyday programming problems. They never see real problems.

We do. When confronted by unmanageable complexity, what do we do? The same thing our primitive ancestors did when faced with a haunch of mastodon too big to swallow: we bite off a chunk and start chewing. We tackle big problems by breaking them up into little ones. It's a bit of mental magic, hand waving that does not really make the true enormity of software problems go away. But it often works anyway, giving the overloaded developer the illusion that big, complex systems can be built out of lots of small, simple pieces of code.


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