Booch, Grady

By Dominick A. Miserandino,

DM) How would you explain the "Booch" method in layman terms?

GB) The Booch method is a process and a language for designing complex software systems. Think of it this way: if you are building a doghouse, you can start with a pile of lumber and some tools, and just build it. If you are building a house, it would be foolish to start building without doing some sort of planning. That means, in most cases, at least producing blueprints. If you
are building a high rise, then its important to do some very detailed modeling. The same is true with software: if you are building a simple, disposable system, then you can just do it. If you are building anything larger, then you need to do some degree of modeling to establish a resilient
and well-structured architecture for the system. That's where the Booch method comes in: it's a language for expressing models of software systems, and a process that guides you in producing those models and turning those models into executable systems.

The Booch method has evolved over the past years, since its inception in the late 1980's. In particular, the Booch method has been subsumed by the UML - the Unified Modeling Language - and the RUP - the Rational Unified Process.

DM) What common programs might the "average man" have seen it in?

GB) This is a very Zen answer, but the use of the Booch method (and the UML) is transparent to every average user. That notwithstanding, the method and language has been used for such diverse things as the software that runs pacemakers, cellular phones, telephone switching systems, some rides at Disney World, various video games, avionics software for the B2 and 777,
trading systems in New York, London, Sydney, and Tokyo, railway switching systems in the UK, antilock braking systems, cable TV billing systems, autonomous robots, automatic bowling lanes....the list goes on and on.

DM) How does it feel having had such an influence?

GB) Very humbling. To fly on an aircraft whose software was written using my method, routed through an air traffic control system (ditto on the software), certainly gives me an appreciation for the fact that this stuff touches people in interesting ways.

DM) What started you in computers?

GB) I build my first computer when I was in Junior High School. Even then, I was a voracious reader, and I ran across some publications by a group in London (and this is long before PCs and microprocessors hit the scene). I studied everything I could get my hands on, and then turned to building my own machine. I then turned to programming by contacting my local IBM office, and they found me a FORTRAN manual and some time on a mainframe to play around. From that point on, I was hooked.

DM) Do you feel that the year 2000 issue will really be the problems they say it will be?

GB) There's a lot of panic in the air, and IMHO, it's all unfounded. Sure, there will be some problems, but I expect these to be localized and certainly not life threatening. Anyway, it's a) a point in time that will pass and b) it's mostly a problem in Western civilization - it's a very different year in the Chinese calendar, for example.

DM) Then where do, you see computers as going in the next millennium?

GB) This will be the era of distributed devices, some of which will be in your walls, some of which you will wear, some of which will be in your cars and throughout your house, and maybe one of which will be on your desk. Devices with processors in them will be everywhere, they will be connected, and they will look less and less like traditional PCs.

DM) What kind of computer do you have now?

GB) My primary machine is a heavily loaded PowerMac, which I use to write all my books and to do video editing. I've also got a PC (a Toshiba Tecra 750CDT) which I use for all my work at Rational and for email. There's an old 486 that's dedicated just for video teleconferencing, a Mac II fX for sequencing on my keyboards, a PowerMac G3 laptop for the home, and an older Tecra for my web connection. When we built our house, we put a local area network in the walls: I've got an ISDN line for video, a dedicated T1 line to Rational in Santa Clara, and a 256K ADSL line for the web.

DM) There are critics who say that technology is dangerous and is moving to fast. What's your reaction?

GB) That is a criticism voiced in every generation. Consider the Luddites of a century ago who railed against the machines of the industrial revolution. Francis Fukuyama wrote a delightful book called "The End of History and the Last Man" in which he argued about the inevitability of technological process. One can't stop this kind of progress, so the critics you cite above are cursing the dark. That being said, it's important to always consider the implications of the technology we create, for they have social impact. Consider, for example, the impact of the Internet to the social structure of China - it's a very threatening technology to the Chinese government, yet it offers to be a vehicle for sweeping change. Would your critics deny the opportunities that this technology offers?

In every generation, in the context of every new technology, humanity struggles for meaning. This generation is no different.

DM) What do you think of the technology stock mania that's happening?

GB) It's just like the Tulip Mania in Holland a century ago. Many of the Internet stocks are grossly overvalued; a few will survive, but most will fall, leaving speculators, and especially amateur day traders, with losses.


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