About “De-Engineering”

Commodore Pet 2How not to build the heaviest airplane

When I was about 10, I saw my first computer, the Commodore PET, one of the first personal computers made. Ever since that day, I have been obsessed with computers and software. I learned to write important programs such as:

30 GOTO 20

Now, many years later, I have spent my entire life and career building software or leading teams that do so. Over that time, I have spotted many recurring patterns of dysfunction in teams building software. This site is my attempt to make sense of that and share what I have learned. Equally importantly, it’s a chance to get feedback from others to see if they share similar views or have different ones that I can learn from.

Although by the site’s title, it might appear that I am anti-Engineer [1], I am actually a Computer Scientist by training and trade. Most Engineers I have worked with are amongst the nicest and smartest people I know [2]. This site is not about criticizing Engineers – it is about making us more effective Engineers by understanding the business implications of our work to make sure that we are maximizing the impact of our efforts.

This site is also for those, like present-day me, who manage Engineering teams or those who rely on Engineers to deliver their products, including Product Managers, Project Managers and executives.

For new visitors, I recommend that you start at the beginning (Introductory Series). The first group of posts is meant to be read in order to make the most sense.

young-bill-gates.jpgThe reference to “the heaviest airplane” comes from the Microsoft team when they were a much smaller company working with IBM on OS/2 [3]. Bill Gates [4] commented that based on the way that IBM was writing code, it seemed like they were trying to build the heaviest airplane. The quote has stuck with me ever since and is my favorite visualization of over-engineering.

By the way, I tend to use a lot of footnotes [6] – I do it so that additional semi-useful information [7] doesn’t distract the reader. Having said that, the footnotes themselves can be distracting. I suggest that you read the post straight through the first time without looking at or clicking on the footnotes and then go back a second time to view the footnotes [8].

Thanks for visiting the site and I look forward to hearing from you.


About the author:

Book Cover croppedDarryl Linkedin ProfileDarryl Ricker has spent his career building software – as a Developer, Architect, Product Manager and in many management and executive roles. He’s worked at everything from a two-person startup to the largest technology companies in the world (and everything in between). You can find his latest musings on his blog site: http://www.de-engineering.blog and in the upcoming book “De-Engineering the Corporation”.

Note: the content on this site reflects my personal views and does not represent the views of any past, present or future client or employer.


[1] I use the terms Engineer, Developer, Software Developer and Programmer fairly interchangeably and, in all cases, am talking about someone creating software for a living, as opposed to the many other types of Engineers in the world (Mechanical, Chemical, Domestic, Train, etc.).

[2] although they don’t always exhibit great business sense.

[3] At that time, Microsoft prided themselves on writing lean, tight code. That will probably be laughable to my younger readers based on the size of the current Windows executable. Also, I’m sure that many of my younger readers have no idea what OS/2 is. At the time that Microsoft was transitioning from DOS (their original operating system) to Windows, IBM was also trying to build a new operating system with a graphical interface. Through a contractual obligation, Microsoft was forced to help in the effort. IBM’s success in that endeavor should be obvious.

[4] Bill Gates is one of my heroes, although I’m slightly more in awe of Paul Allen, who wrote a loader program in Assembly language, on paper, on the way to show the MicroSoft [5] BASIC interpreter to Altair (the makers of the first personal computer). I also respected that Paul walked away early to pursue his passions. Similarly, I am more of a fan of Woz over Jobs. And Star Wars over Star Trek. Oh no…I think I’ve said too much…

[5] The correct spelling of the company name in that era.

[6]  It’s true – I do.

[7]  And my smart-ass comments.

[8]  Trust me, you’ll totally want to read it twice ;-).

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