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Picture This

Software developers draw pictures when they could be writing real programs for much the same reasons that architects draw floor plans and elevations before building a house. Buildings were not always built from plans and drawings, though. If a building is simple enough and familiar enough, crews can work without models, figuring out the design as they go along. The turn-of-the-century rural community didn't need blueprints to raise a barn. Those old barns were simple designs and used simplified construction methods. Everyone knew what a barn looked like, how it was constructed, and what was needed to build it. Most of the community had done it before, and any first-timers could learn just by paying attention and doing what they saw others do. But when you go from yerts and barns to four-bedroom garrison colonials or high-rise apartment complexes, things get more complex.

And so it is with computer programs. Back when 64K of RAM was the limit and CP/M was the operating environment, keeping an entire program in your head may have been possible and sensible. But anyone who says they can keep track of and make sense of the details in a hundred thousand lines of C code is lying—if not to you, then to themselves. This is where design models come in.


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