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Old Problems

Reuse is hardly a new idea. The lowly subroutine was conceived so that the same instructions did not have to be written out each time a particular calculation was needed. Reusable component libraries have been around for almost as long as people have been programming. The first to yield to reuse were math routines, followed soon by input-output. Except for the sheer joy or perversity of doing it, no applications or tool developer writes their own sine-cosine routines anymore.

Then, what is the problem? Unfortunately, most programmers like to program. Some of them would rather program than eat or bathe. Most of them would much rather cut code than chase documentation or search catalogs or try to figure out some other stupid programmer's idiotic work. Software developers develop things; users use them. Other things being equal, programmers will design and build from scratch rather than recycle. All of them are convinced that they can write it tighter or faster or more elegantly than whoever came before. So, even though it might make them more productive, programmers are almost constitutionally biased against reuse. How do we encourage them to change their habits? Suddenly the chorus in the balcony starts singing contrapuntally: “Incentives. Market forces. Rewards schemes. Royalties. Reinforcement schedules. Culture change.” Such lovely cacophony.


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