The Ware of Transgressors Is Hard


Herodotus, when he wasn't coining slogans f or the U.S. Postal Service, pointed out that in software regions are born soft men. So maybe it's our own fault, us old ACMers. Here we invented all those funny languages, and all that impenetrable jargon. Here we started all those computer science departments. Here we thought we had something nowel and precious and all our own. And all the time it was just a minor branch of electrical engineering.

Yes, we thought the hardware boys were happy with their chips and cores and connectors. We thought they were busy with data communications and microprogrammed structures and processors so small they had to be examined under electron microscopes. And all the time they were sharpening the knife for us.

We thought they were confreres, not competitors. And now we find out that the IEEE Computer Society, the hardware guild, has started a software committee, a software journal and will hold a major software conference in September - presumably timed to draw papers and attendance away from the ACM national conference the following month.

I'm stricken to see major figures like Tom Steel and Harlan Mills defect. I'm shocked to see Ruth Davis permit the Bureau of Standards to cosponsor such a divisive activity. There are more thanenough conferences, more than enough committees, more than enough ways of sucking on the National Science Foundation teat. And many more than enough competing publications.

We need coherence, cooperation, federation in our trade - not fragmentation and empty competition. Where an interaction between hardware and software universes is needed we have a national conference of 20 years standing that offers the best opportunity in the world for the adjacent disciplines to meet. Where deep examination of software realities is needed, we have vigorous special interest groups and rapid, prosperous publications in being.

Instead of one guild warring on another, can we not work toward a single powerful society, a truly professional organization? That way the stupidities and the attacks on our tools and our expertise and our people - premature licensing, inadequate and easily ignored standards, nonexistent pension protection - can be fought. That way lies public presence and rational responsibility - yes, and even improved efficiency.

I call very seriously and soberly for the IEEE Computer Society to reconsider its divisive thrusts and for software people every where to join me in urging them to do so. As for the specifics the publications and the conferences, I must reluctantly but bluntly say that I hope they will fail-fail decisively and swiftly.