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Education Microsoft Programming

Computer Science vs. Software Engineering 322

Posted by timothy
from the distinction-vs-difference dept.
theodp writes "Microsoft's promotion of Julie Larson-Green to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering in the wake of Steven Sinofsky's resignation is reopening the question of what is the difference between Computer Science and Software Engineering. According to their bios on Microsoft's website, Sinofsky has a master's degree in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an undergraduate degree with honors from Cornell University, while Larson-Green has a master's degree in software engineering from Seattle University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Washington University. A comparison of the curricula at Sinofsky's and Larson-Green's alma maters shows there's a huge difference between UMass's MSCS program and Seattle U's MSE program. So, is one program inherently more compatible with Microsoft's new teamwork mantra?"
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Computer Science vs. Software Engineering

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:44PM (#42014287)

    In my opinion CS majors have always been the philosopher kind who like to nit-pick every angle of development. Product development leadership requires someone more practical as an engineer.

  • as if (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamagloworm (816661) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:45PM (#42014289)
    as if the schools these guys went to makes a difference? their skills are learned from experience working in the industry and their value is in using their judgement based on that experience to make the best choices.
    • Re:as if (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dahamma (304068) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @05:15PM (#42014523)

      Yep, these are senior executives with a thousand or more people reporting to them who spend most of their time in meetings. The details of computer science or engineering classes they took in college 30 years ago are pretty much irrelevant to their current jobs.

      And it's especially true in this case, as personal computers were in their infancy when they were in college, anyway. Trying to compare two programs based on what they are *today* makes no sense when they graduated in the 80's.

    • This is the same in most industries. A degree from any number of schools gets one an interview. Experience and ability gets one a job.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Schools matter somewhat in terms of their career trajectories and the experiences they earned. You can't get hired as a professional engineer if you aren't an engineer sort of thing, so your school can shape your biases somewhat. But as you say, at this stage, corporate executive level, they're much more about their experience after the fact.

      But different schools, especially computer science schools are wildly different in their programmes, so you can't really compare 'CS to SE', CS at one particular scho

  • Computer science, is a ... science. It's concerned with algorithms, factorials, LISP, Turing machines, and all sorts of other crazy awesome shit. Software engineering is concerned with Ruby on Rails and Wordpress.

    If CS were called engineering, SE would be called mechanics.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Computer science, is a ... science

      Only in the old sense of the word "science," i.e. "knowledge," but then software engineering would also be "science." CS is not about gathering data then forming a theory; it is about developing logic systems from a set of basic assumptions (e.g. the semantics of your programming language, or of a theoretical computational system like a Turing Machine or Lambda Calculus). That would be mathematics (which at one time would have been called "science" as well). CS is a particular branch of mathematics: t

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      Engineering is actually the science of applying fundamental science for practical applications.
      So it's science too.

      Using Ruby on Rails is not engineering, it's just development.

    • by afgam28 (48611)

      That's not really been my experience. If you think that Software Engineering is concerned with RoR and WordPress, then no offense or anything but you probably have a narrow understanding of the (computing) world and lack breadth in your studies and experience.

      Computer Science, like science in general, attempts to expand human understanding of a field of study. So Computer Scientists spend a lot of time exploring new things. For this reason, they rarely talk about Turing Machines. Some do, but most don't - t

      • I'm well aware of him. What was his other quote... something like `We conjure the spirits of the computer with our code'? It's been a while since I picked up SICP. Never-the-less, as great as it is, I'm going to have to reject his mysticism and maintain that it is, in fact, a science.
        • by Mr2cents (323101)

          Sciences deal with understanding the natural world. CS doesn't. It's more closely related to logic and mathematics, neither of which are sciences.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:49PM (#42014329)
    Computer science is a branch of mathematics; software engineering is a collection of methods for applying that math in the "real world." Software engineering is not about state machines, compilers, programming languages, parallel algorithms, etc.; it is about how to use write "concrete" implementations of such things in a way that makes sense for real-world computation.
    • by iamhassi (659463) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:55PM (#42014383) Journal
      Science is "why", engineering is "how". Science studies why things are the way they are, while engineering just accepts the way things are and works with that. That said, would rather have a scientist, since they understand things better.
      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @05:01PM (#42014427)
        Eh, most computer scientists are not going to be able to develop a system that meets specifications by a deadline unless they also have software engineering skills. I know expert cryptographers who can barely implement a working software system and who have no idea how to make software for use in real applications. Computer science research projects are usually "write only" software that can only be used by the person that wrote it, because it is written without regard to anything beyond proving a particular point or idea (so-called "grad student code," at least at my institution).

        So really, for a real-world project, you probably a (good) software engineer.
        • by Alomex (148003) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @06:03PM (#42014911) Homepage

          Eh, most computer scientists are not going to be able to develop a system that meets specifications by a deadline unless they also have software engineering skills. ...which in practice are taught in nearly all computer science undergraduate programs. So anyone currently claiming some superiority of SEers over CSers is likely just trying to prop their own degree.

          I've developed shipping code for companies as well as research projects at university. Research code is write-only since it is not worth architecting properly something that is meant for one time use, not because of some supposed lack of software engineering skills.

          Heck! a good software engineer is equally likely to program a write only perl script to do a one time migration of their system.

          • Software engineering is taught but not required by most CS curricula (at least from what I have seen), which are generally focused on training students to use programming languages and giving them some surface-level exposure to theoretical and practical concepts.

            Research code is write-only since it is not worth architecting properly something that is meant for one time use, not because of some supposed lack of software engineering skills.

            Except that research code is not always meant for one-time use; there are quite a few research programs that are used in multiple projects, which which are poorly documents, poorly engineered, and hard to run. I have seen a lot of grad students s

            • if someone told you they had a PhD in CS, would you assume they could design a maintainable or reliable software system?

              Hum, no. And I wouldn't assume that if somebody told me he had an equivalent degree on software engineering either.

              The ugly reality of IT is that nearly everybody in it don't have a minimum idea of how to code. Whatver dimension you choose, be it maintainability, number of bugs, complexity, actualy implementing the specs, discovering what the specs are, use of resources, whatever... You na

            • by Alomex (148003)

              Software engineering is taught but not required by most CS curricula (at least from what I have seen),

              It is part of the ACM curricula recommendations [acm.org].

        • by loufoque (1400831)

          computer scientists are not going to be able to develop

          You could have stopped there, that's accurate enough.

          Computer scientists can't write code, and they really shouldn't. It's a waste of both their time and that of others.

          • by Alomex (148003)

            Computer scientists can't write code,

            Funny you write that, since the SE moniker didn't even exist as an option until about 15 years ago or so. Before that all software was written by CS people. You might actually have heard of some [wikipedia.org] of [wikipedia.org] them [wikipedia.org].

          • Computer scientists can't write code, and they really shouldn't.

            It's a poor "scientist" that only thinks and never experiments.

            Real computer scientists need to also be adept programmers, because it turned out The Last One [wikipedia.org] really wasn't and there is still code between thought and program.

            Also if your field of interest was computer languages it would be foolish indeed to try and design language features without understanding the pitfalls and benefits of said features in whatever languages they have appeared i

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        Except engineering *is* science.
        Don't confuse fundamental/applied with science/non-science.

      • by afgam28 (48611)

        As a Software Engineer, I care plenty about "why" things are the way they are. For example, I care a lot about why unindexed database joins are O(n^2), because I need to know how to avoid writing slow code. Engineers who don't understand why their software will perform/scale adequately and meet SLAs aren't very good engineers.

        I think a more accurate way to describe it is: science is more about "new" and engineering is more about "useful". Scientists don't bother researching things that are already known and

      • by pregister (443318)

        I'd say, where the rubber meets the road, science is "Huh?" and engineering is "Hmm".

    • by Alomex (148003)

      Computer science is a branch of mathematics;

      False. Mathematics does not care about grounding or motivation in reality. Computer science without grounding in reality is math, computer science with grounding in reality is how should I put this, computer science.

      • Mathematics does not care about grounding or motivation in reality

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerical_analysis [wikipedia.org]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_mathematics [wikipedia.org]

        Also,

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curry-Howard_Isomorphism [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Alomex (148003)

          As to N.A. and A.M if you ask most mathematician they will tell you those fields are not really math.

          The Curry-Howard link is neither here nor there. Math is applied routinely in many sciences, and is often inspired by reality (more so in the past that recently) yet this has never been central to what math is.

          • As to N.A. and A.M if you ask most mathematician they will tell you those fields are not really math.

            Except for those mathematicians who work in applied fields of math, who will tell you that they are mathematicians. Not that people could be biased or anything like that, or that experts might not agree on how to define their field.

            The Curry-Howard link is neither here nor there. Math is applied routinely in many sciences,

            The Curry-Howard correspondence is not a statement about an application of math in computer science. In simple terms, the correspondence is this: a mathematical proof can be converted into a computer program, and a computer program can be converted into a proof of some mat

            • by Alomex (148003)

              A fundamental link as much as everything in physics can be translated to an equation, yet no one claims all of physics is math, because the goals are different, which brings us back to our original point. Motivation is more important than technique.

      • by gtall (79522)

        Yes and no. Many mathematical disciplines were invented because some physicists or engineers were trying to solve a real world problem. At some indistinct point, the mathematics involved becomes a discipline unto itself. The deep problems are mathematical but they got driven by real world considerations. It also can flow in the opposite direction, number theory starts out from mere counting for taxes and commerce. It progresses until it is involve with problems that have nothing to do with its origins. But

      • by afgam28 (48611)

        False. Mathematics does not care about grounding or motivation in reality.

        Ever heard of "applied mathematics", like for example statistics or operations research?

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      It still is about state machines, compilers, programming languages, parallel algorithms. Having research papers with mathematical formulae and proofs is all nice and dandy, but at some point it's nice to actually implement the shit, test it out, studying the practicality of the thing etc., and that's software engineering.

    • IMO "CS" is misnamed. There's not a lot of science, as in applying the scientific method, involved. Would it be better to start calling them "computer mathematicians"?

  • Deja Vu? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:52PM (#42014349)
    It feels like we just discussed this a week ago - oh, wait, we did!

    http://ask.slashdot.org/story/12/11/10/2038211/ask-slashdot-developer-or-software-engineer-can-it-influence-your-work [slashdot.org]

    Another gem from timothy, right-supreme glorious editor for life.
  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:54PM (#42014361) Homepage Journal

    An engineer uses his tools and techniques to solve problems.

    A scientist invents new tools and techniques.

    If you're just using your knowledge to build things for people, you're an engineer. Unless you're exploring the limits of knowledge, coming up with and testing new ideas, you're not a scientist. And publishing has nothing to do with it, it's a mindset.

    Knuth is a scientist - by laying out algorithms and describing their merits and deficiencies, he's essentially publishing a box of tools that others can use. Bill Gates is an engineer - he implemented known algorithms and solutions into a unified package (nothing new there).

    • . Unless you're exploring the limits of knowledge, coming up with and testing new ideas, you're not a scientist.

      So the lawyer at Apple who came up with a new way to patent page-turning is a legal scientist? Who knew?

      --

      --

      --
      Yeah, I know "Unless A then not B" doesn't mean "if A then B," but we are talking about a guy who is a proven expert at twisting meanings around.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      I am exploring the limits of my knowledge daily, I am an engineer, a bit of a scientist, but still not a computer scientist.
      Get your definitions straight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:56PM (#42014395)

    Those guys are 50 something. The difference between Computer Science and Software Engineering does not matter 30 years after you graduated. Whether you kept up with progress and what kind of experiences you acquired during that time is what matters. Old guy did not left because of the school he was in and the new guy was not hired because of the school he was. They left / have been hired because of what they did last 7 years.

  • What you learned in school is irrelevant at that level.

    • by gtall (79522)

      What you learned in school might be irrelevant. The mental training you received at school and how it influences you to approach problems very much is relevant.

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:59PM (#42014413) Homepage Journal
    Compare what is emphasized in each curriculum. Whoever is contemplating this needs to seriously RTFM. The terms have very long and precise histories. The question may as well be "what is the difference between physics and structural engineering?" and the response would still be "why don't you use an encyclopedia?"

    ...Or we could get down to the actual question that the submitter was insinuating, which is "It is most likely that Sinofsky and his replacement will have different mentalities about how the Windows department at MS should be run. But will having a software engineer replace a computer scientist yield results that are better or worse for the company's bottom line?"
  • Engineering, as it's practiced in other fields, is applying existing models (often created by scientists) to make something new or modify something old. Bridge building applies a lot of science but doesn't do any science.

    Scientists postulate new theorems, perform and evaluate studies, publish papers on those studies.

    The vast majority of CS grads go into jobs where they use existing languages, algorithms, APIs and libraries to create something new or modify something old. Thus Engineers, not scientists. How

    • by godrik (1287354)

      In most universities the department is actually called "computer science and engineering".

    • by headhot (137860)

      Thats the problem. The market needs Software Engineers that were trained as Software Engineers, not Software Engineers trained as Scientists. The why both approach and solve problems are completely different. I'm not saying CS people can't solve problems, but its the SE that know what problems the solutions create.

    • by Animats (122034)

      Yes, there are the CS people doing actual science, performing studies, creating the new stuff for all the future SE's to use, but they're the vast minority. If you want to see more than 2 in the same room go to SIGGRAPH.

      True. More true in the 1990s, when rendering and physical simulation were being figured out. Game development used to need theoreticians. Now it needs people who can wrangle the large number of people and vast amounts of data that go into an A title.

  • Where I'm finishing up my CS degree, there isn't a software engineering program at all, but rather you can take 3 electives in it. A lot of our CS electives are way more practical than our core classes, too. It's a pretty nice mix when you can skip the theoretical nonsense, I just don't know how well that holds up compared to other universities
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @05:52PM (#42014805)
      CS theory is not "nonsense" by any stretch of the imagination, even if you are only interested in doing "real world" work. The point of theory for professional programmers is to think about software in unusual ways; this broadens your ability to solve problems. The trend in programming languages over the past few decades has been towards the use of concepts that are common in theoretical CS; if that trend continues (and I suspect it will), theoretical courses will be more relevant as time goes on.

      Even C++ now has lambda expressions. Introspection was once a theoretical topic (e.g. Turing machines that can read their own description). Type theoretic concepts (type constructors, dependent types, etc.) are probably going to become more mainstream in the near future.
  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @05:04PM (#42014459) Journal

    Software Engineering, in the sense of the Seattle University program, is the attempt to reduce the production of software to a set of reproducible steps that any monkey (code monkey) could accomplish. You know, you start with your requirements, you proceed to a high-level design using object oriented design techniques, then you make a low level design, and finally, almost as an afterthought, you write code. As anyone who has been on a software project which attempts to follow this particular discipline knows, it doesn't work. It does, however, succeed in its secondary goal of turning an interesting job into a horrible grind.

    I suspect working on Windows is already a horrible grind, so it probably won't make much difference.

  • The leader of a program is not important. What matters is the service to the machien. What matters is that the professionals who do the job feel productive and that no lamers stand in their way. Microsoft has ements of an anti-software professional culture. They hate open standards. They rarely talk coding. Developers have a low status. Microsoft fails to inspire their developers. They are not treated with dignity.
    • by kwerle (39371)

      I don't think that the folks at apple would [have] agreed with you.

      • Steve Jobs was a professional presenter able to sell visions. He treated his teams very inhumane. His corporate policies were clearly anti-developer. Jobs is dead and Apple a brand.
    • by afgam28 (48611)

      I've heard this opinion expressed a lot, but I'm a bit skeptical because I've never seen it work in practice. If it works so well to have leaders who are just there to serve the machine, where are these great companies that have good engineers and subservient "leaders"?

      If you look at all the big successful tech companies, they all seem to have strong leadership with a clear vision. For example Amazon, Facebook and especially Apple are all built around what are almost cults of personality. Even Google's lead

  • But,
    I think the difference should be similar to a physicist and a engineer. When the engineer specializes in practical application of the science, and the physicist researches the science.

    A computer scientist researches and develops sorting algorithms. A software engineer knows which one to use when.

  • CS is not helpdesk / system admin / desktop.

  • by Jim Hall (2985) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @05:48PM (#42014763) Homepage

    While not a perfect match to the above, I think the story of the king's toaster [ryerson.ca] is a good example of the difference between an "engineer" and a "scientist". I originally saw this on USENET in the 1990s, so the technology is a little dated:

    A great king summoned two of his advisors, and showed them both a shiny metal box with two slots in the top, a control knob and a lever. "What do you think this is?"

    One adviser, an engineer, answered first: "It is a toaster," he said.

    The king asked, "But how would you design an embedded computer for it?"

    The engineer replied, "Using a 4-bit micro-controller, I would write a simple program that reads the darkness knob position to one of 16 shades of darkness, from snow white to coal black. The program would use that darkness level as the index to a 16-element table of initial timer values. Then it would turn on the toaster and start the timer. At the end of the time delay, it would turn off the heat and pop up the toast. Come back next week, and I'll show you a working prototype."

    The second adviser, a computer scientist, immediately recognized the danger of such short-sighted thinking. He said, "Toasters don't just turn bread into toast, they are also used to warm frozen waffles. What you see before you is really a breakfast food cooker. As the subjects of your kingdom become more sophisticated, they will demand more capabilities. They will need a breakfast food cooker that can also cook sausage, fry bacon, and make scrambled eggs. A toaster that only makes toast will soon be obsolete."

    The adviser suggested a future-oriented embedded computer innovation, with a forward-ready platform: "Specifically, we need an object-oriented language with multiple inheritance. Of course, users don't want the eggs to get cold while the bacon is frying, so concurrent processing is required, too.

    "We must not forget the user interface. The lever that lowers the food lacks versatility and the darkness knob is confusing. Users won't want the product unless it has a user-friendly, graphical interface.

    "Having made the wise decision of specifying the software first in the design phase, all that remains is to pick an adequate hardware platform for the implementation phase. An Intel 80386 with 8MB of memory, a 30MB hard disk and a VGA monitor should be sufficient. If you select a multitasking, object oriented language that supports multiple inheritance and has a built-in GUI, writing the program will be a snap."

    The king had the computer scientist thrown in the moat, and they all lived happily ever after.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think your anecdote describes two different types of engineer.

      A true computer scientist would present the king with a paper that proves the toaster is a specific solution to a special class of problems having a property called "Breakfast Completeness".

  • Computer Science is Physics

    Software Engineering is Mechanical Engineer/Eletrical Engineering.

  • Julie Larson-Green will be promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller retains her roles as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows.

    Isn't the more important story here the rise of two women to senior positions in management and engineering at Microsoft?

    The software and semiconductor sectors have the lowest percentages of women among the five highest-paid executives in a company, with 4.4 percent and 2.7 percent

    Where Are the Women Executives in Silicon Valley? [nytimes.com]

    Julie Larson-Green is no slouch when it comes to logging the years and time at Microsoft. She joined the company 19 years ago as a program manager for Visual C++ and has worked her way up through the ranks.

    Larson-Green worked hand-in-hand with Sinofsky on Microsoft Office. Before that she worked on Microsoft SharePoint and Internet Explorer. She actually led one of the most dramatic redesigns at the company when she worked on the so-called ribbon interface in Office.

    The Woman Behind Windows [go.com]

    ''I don't even know how to explain how amazing and exciting that is to every woman who works in tech right now and probably in business across the board,'' said Michele Weisblatt, executive vice president for Women in Technology International.

    ''It"s not just about (the company) putting them over a division, it's about them leading the flagship product --- the money-making, revenue piece for Microsoft. It's just phenomenal.''

    Women hold just a quarter of computing and mathematical jobs in the U.S., according to a 2008 report on women in technology from Catalyst, a nonprofit research organization.

    ''Microsoft's move is important because of its visibility as a technology and corporate giant, so girls in school who see women like Larson-Green and Reller move into such high-profile roles will carry that with them for a lifetime,''said Jenny Slade, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

    Women rising in the ranks at tech companies [nbcnews.com]

  • by twasserman (878174) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @06:01PM (#42014887)
    I have always found that the best software engineers are those people who have a solid background in computer science. That knowledge is valuable throughout one's career and enables one to participate effectively in discussions and reviews of architectures, data models, and more even after being promoted to a position that doesn't include writing code. To me, the two areas are complementary.

    Side note: I'm mystified at how someone with a Bachelor's degree in business can earn an MS in Software Engineering. Yes, management skills have an important role in an SE curriculum, but not to the exclusion of the technical skills.

  • A software engineer will complain about the structure of a comment, how you name varibles and functions. A computer science major just programs.
  • The problem Microsoft has is neither with computer science nor with software engineering; their problem is with design, usability, and functionality.

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      exactly. for the purposes of this role, the variation of individuals within each group is much greater than the variation between the groups. i doubt that the type of degree was the top factor in decision.

  • Computer Science is the overarching term for everything to do with computers. This includes computer science theory, hardware engineering, software engineering, networking, etc. A good Computer Science program covers the theory required to build a computer from scratch (circuitry, microchips, firmware, software, etc). A good Software Engineering program provides practical skills to develop applications, games, etc.

  • "Software Engineering" implies a more practical focus, with emphasis on using real teams to create working systems with real-world applicability. "Computer Science" implies a more theoretical approach, perhaps a bit removed from practical application. Both have their place, and there's huge overlap (one institution's Comp Sci program may even be more "practical" than another's Software Engineering program), so it is hard to make snap judgements.

    But in general, putting someone with the Software Engineering d

  • by ios and web coder (2552484) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @07:34PM (#42015555) Journal
    This is a story that I got from the Internet (pre-Web), many moons ago:

    THE TOASTER

    Once upon a time, in a kingdom not far from here, a king summoned two of his advisors for a test. He showed them both a shiny metal box with two slots in the top, a control knob, and a lever. "What do you think this is?"

    One advisor, an engineer, answered first. "It is a toaster," he said. The king asked, "How would you design an embedded computer for it?" The engineer replied, "Using a four-bit microcontroller, I would write a simple program that reads the darkness knob and quantizes its position to one of 16 shades of darkness, from snow white to coal black. The program would use that darkness level as the index to a 16-element table of initial timer values. Then it would turn on the heating elements and start the timer with the initial value selected from the table. At the end of the time delay, it would turn off the heat and pop up the toast. Come back next week, and I'll show you a working prototype."

    The second advisor, a computer scientist, immediately recognized the danger of such short-sighted thinking. He said, "Toasters don't just turn bread into toast, they are also used to warm frozen waffles. What you see before you is really a breakfast food cooker. As the subjects of your kingdom become more sophisticated, they will demand more capabilities. They will need a breakfast food cooker that can also cook sausage, fry bacon, and make scrambled eggs. A toaster that only makes toast will soon be obsolete. If we don't look to the future, we will have to completely redesign the toaster in just a few years."

    "With this in mind, we can formulate a more intelligent solution to the problem. First, create a class of breakfast foods. Specialize this class into subclasses: grains, pork, and poultry. The specialization process should be repeated with grains divided into toast, muffins, pancakes, and waffles; pork divided into sausage, links, and bacon; and poultry divided into scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs, and various omelet classes."

    "The ham and cheese omelet class is worth special attention because it must inherit characteristics from the pork, dairy, and poultry classes. Thus, we see that the problem cannot be properly solved without multiple inheritance. At run time, the program must create the proper object and send a message to the object that says, 'Cook yourself.' The semantics of this message depend, of course, on the kind of object, so they have a different meaning to a piece of toast than to scrambled eggs."

    "Reviewing the process so far, we see that the analysis phase has revealed that the primary requirement is to cook any kind of breakfast food. In the design phase, we have discovered some derived requirements. Specifically, we need an object-oriented language with multiple inheritance. Of course, users don't want the eggs to get cold while the bacon is frying, so concurrent processing is required, too."

    "We must not forget the user interface. The lever that lowers the food lacks versatility, and the darkness knob is confusing. Users won't buy the product unless it has a user-friendly, graphical interface. When the breakfast cooker is plugged in, users should see a cowboy boot on the screen. Users click on it, and the message 'Booting UNIX v. 8.3' appears on the screen. (UNIX 8.3 should be out by the time the product gets to the market.) Users can pull down a menu and click on the foods they want to cook."

    "Having made the wise decision of specifying the software first in the design phase, all that remains is to pick an adequate hardware platform for the implementation phase. An Intel 80386 with 8MB of memory, a 30MB hard disk, and a VGA monitor should be sufficient. If you select a multitasking, object oriented language that supports multiple inheritance and has a built-in GUI, writing the program will be a snap. (Imagine the difficulty we would have had if we had foolishly allowed a hardware-first design strategy to lock us into a four-bit microcontroller!)."

    The king had the computer scientist thrown in the moat, and they all lived happily ever after.

  • Personal Experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @08:21PM (#42015843)
    My personal experience would be that computer engineer is a better place to start a career and then start sprinkling computer science more and more. The CS majors (the worst being the graduate ones) blah blah all the time about big O yet somehow never master the career basics such as SQL or Linux administration. I find that they get bogged down with Big O and other analysis on problems where O^8 will still take nearly zero time and O just doesn't matter.

    Yet on the other end I find that many computer software engineers tend to master something like Java and then just wail away at every problem with their one mastered skill set. Then after a while they get a second skill set such as SQL and as time goes by they end up with a sort of vertical integration of skills. But where they don't usually progress is when you do have to look at a problem as a system and start doing discrete math, working out the nodes, connections, and so on. This is where computer software engineers will implement a cryptographic library but do it really badly leaving elephant sized holes.

    So I would say CS is often too pedantic, CE is too much like a plumber, but a CE with strong math and a good dose of CS can generate art. Sort of like Escher; he could draw quite well and had a good understanding of math, he combined the two into something incredible.
  • Frankly, I find it confusing when the word 'biographies' is shortened to 'bios' - especially when dealing with a CS subject.

  • by drwho (4190) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:54PM (#42016617) Homepage Journal

    So you've got Seattle on one hand, and Massachusetts on the other. Massachusetts has a reputation of being more theoretical about engineering, as opposed to cheap and practical like west-coast people. Massachusetts-made thinks like DEC's VAX were big, expensive, heavy, tough, and polished. Seattle has...well ...MSDOS. Quick, dirty, gets the job done, ultimately Microsoft flourished and DEC withered and died. BUT concepts live on, as NT was done by ex-DEC people. West Coast is more hack, East Coast is more engineering. Personally, I am from Massachusetts and would like to think the Yankee 'craftsman' approach is better than the west-coast hippie 'hack', but the truth is, that the distinction isn't always easily made, and that elegant design needs some pragmatism as well. But, I think it's an interesting intellectual exercise when think of East Coast CS craftsmen vs. West Coast CE hackers.

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