by Dinesh Thakur

Software engineering discipline is the result of advancement in the field of technology. In this section, we will discuss various innovations and technologies that led to the emergence of software engineering discipline.

Early Computer Programming

As we know that in the early 1950s, computers were slow and expensive. Though the programs at that time were very small in size, these computers took considerable time to process them. They relied on assembly language which was specific to computer architecture. Thus, developing a program required lot of effort. Every programmer used his own style to develop the programs.

High Level Language Programming

With the introduction of semiconductor technology, the computers became smaller, faster, cheaper, and reliable than their predecessors. One of the major developments includes the progress from assembly language to high-level languages. Early high level programming languages such as COBOL and FORTRAN came into existence. As a result, the programming became easier and thus, increased the productivity of the programmers. However, still the programs were limited in size and the programmers developed programs using their own style and experience.

Control Flow Based Design

With the advent of powerful machines and high level languages, the usage of computers grew rapidly: In addition, the nature of programs also changed from simple to complex. The increased size and the complexity could not be managed by individual style. It was analyzed that clarity of control flow (the sequence in which the program's instructions are executed) is of great importance. To help the programmer to design programs having good control flow structure, flowcharting technique was developed. In flowcharting technique, the algorithm is represented using flowcharts. A flowchart is a graphical representation that depicts the sequence of operations to be carried out to solve a given problem.

Note that having more GOTO constructs in the flowchart makes the control flow messy, which makes it difficult to understand and debug. In order to provide clarity of control flow, the use of GOTO constructs in flowcharts should be avoided and structured constructs-decision, sequence, and loop-should be used to develop structured flowcharts. The decision structures are used for conditional execution of statements (for example, if statement). The sequence structures are used for the sequentially executed statements. The loop structures are used for performing some repetitive tasks in the program. The use of structured constructs formed the basis of the structured programming methodology.

Structured programming became a powerful tool that allowed programmers to write moderately complex programs easily. It forces a logical structure in the program to be written in an efficient and understandable manner. The purpose of structured programming is to make the software code easy to modify when required. Some languages such as Ada, Pascal, and dBase are designed with features that implement the logical program structure in the software code.

Data-Flow Oriented Design

With the introduction of very Large Scale Integrated circuits (VLSI), the computers became more powerful and faster. As a result, various significant developments like networking and GUIs came into being. Clearly, the complexity of software could not be dealt using control flow based design. Thus, a new technique, namely, data-flow-oriented technique came into existence. In this technique, the flow of data through business functions or processes is represented using Data-flow Diagram (DFD). IEEE defines a data-flow diagram (also known as bubble chart and work-flow diagram) as 'a diagram that depicts data sources, data sinks, data storage, and processes performed on data as nodes, and logical flow of data as links between the nodes.'

Object Oriented Design

Object-oriented design technique has revolutionized the process of software development. It not only includes the best features of structured programming but also some new and powerful features such as encapsulation, abstraction, inheritance, and polymorphism. These new features have tremendously helped in the development of well-designed and high-quality software. Object-oriented techniques are widely used these days as they allow reusability of the code. They lead to faster software development and high-quality programs. Moreover, they are easier to adapt and scale, that is, large systems can be created by assembling reusable subsystems.