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The objective of this session is to introduce the subject of software engineering. When you have read this session you will understand what software engineering is and why it is important, know the answers to key questions which provide an introduction to software engineering, understand ethical and professional issues which are important for software engineers.

Introduction

Virtually all countries now depend on complex computer-based systems. More and more products incorporate computers and controlling software in some form. The software in these systems represents a large and increasing proportion of the total system costs. Therefore, producing software in a cost-effective way is essential for the functioning of national and international economies.

Software engineering is an engineering discipline whose goal is the cost-effective development of software systems. Software is abstract and intangible. It is not constrained by materials, governed by physical laws or by manufacturing processes. In some ways, this simplifies software engineering as there are no physical limitations on the potential of software. In other ways, however, this lack of natural constraints means that software can easily become extremely complex and hence very difficult to understand.

Software engineering is still a relatively young discipline. The notion of ‘software engineering’ was first proposed in 1968 at a conference held to discuss what was then called the ‘software crisis’. This software crisis resulted directly from the introduction of powerful, third generation computer hardware. Their power made hitherto unrealisable computer applications a feasible proposition. The resulting software was orders of magnitude larger and more complex than previous software systems.

Early experience in building these systems showed that an informal approach to software development was not good enough. Major projects were sometimes years late. They cost much more than originally predicted, were unreliable, difficult to maintain and performed poorly. Software development was in crisis. Hardware costs were tumbling whilst software costs were rising rapidly. New techniques and methods were needed to control the complexity inherent in large software systems.

These techniques have become part of software engineering and are now widely although not universally used. However, there are still problems in producing complex software which meets user expectations, is delivered on time and to budget. Many software projects still have problems and this has led to some commentators (Pressman, 1997) suggesting that software engineering is in a state of chronic affliction.

As our ability to produce software has increased so too has the complexity of the software systems required. New technologies resulting from the convergence of computers and communication systems place new demands on software engineers. For this reason and because many companies do not apply software engineering techniques effectively, we still have problems. Things are not as bad as the doomsayers suggest but there is clearly room for improvement.

Questions & Answers

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I wish to ask what is the mean of a data model
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are unmanned flying machines that are built and equipped with various kinds of software systems that allow them to see, hear, and act. Discuss some of the societal challenges of building such kinds of systems.
johni Reply
You have developed a prototype of a software system and your manager is very impressed by it. She proposes that it should be put into use as a production sys tem, with new features added as required. This avoids the expense of system dev immediately useful. Write a short report for your manager expl
johni
You have developed a prototype of a software system and your manager is very impressed by it. She proposes that it should be put into use as a production sys tem, with new features added as required. This avoids the expense of system dev immediately useful.
johni
You have developed a prototype of a software system and your manager is very impressed by it. She proposes that it should be put into use as a production sys tem, with new features added as required. This avoids the expense of system dev immediately useful.
johni
You have developed a prototype of a software system and your manager is very impressed by it. She proposes that it should be put into use as a production sys tem, with new features added as required. This avoids the expense of system dev immediately useful. Write a short report for your manager expl
johni
You have developed a prototype of a software system and your manager is very impressed by it. She proposes that it should be put into use as a production sys tem, with new features added as required. This avoids the expense of system dev immediately useful.
johni
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Source:  OpenStax, Software engineering. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10790/1.1
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