Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Turing got there first -again.

Alan Turing

I was doing some research into test driven development and came across Tony Hoare's paper  The Emperors Old Clothes . Hoare is a big name in the history of computer science, inventing Quicksort at an early age and then C.S.P -I have had the misfortune to program in Occam (and Ada) which implement this, nothing wrong with the concept or really the language -but Occam simulated on a vintage PC wasn't good.

Hoare's paper is well worth a read, both from a historical perspective and for the all too familiar view of projects going horribly wrong -in this case Algol 68, PL/1 and Ada. Helped by mandated use from the military Ada did finally take off -but so did the Bristol Brabazon - but the language failed to achieve the popularity hoped for and we all ended up using C++ for our sins (which must have been many).

Anyway, back to Turing, it seems he wrote a paper in 1949 (yup) entitled 'Checking a Large Routine' the opening paragraph reads :- 
"How can one check a large routine in the sense of making sure that it’s right? In order that the man who checks may not have too difficult a task, the programmer should make a number of definite assertions which can be checked individually, and from which the correctness of the whole program easily follows"
 Sounds like the basics of Test Driven Development to me.

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