Annual History Lecture - Forty Years of Software Engineering

Tuesday 1 November 2011, 6.30pm - 8.00pm

Faraday Lecture Theatre, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP


Brian Randell, Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (FLSW), Emeritus Professor of Computing Science, and Senior Research Investigator, Newcastle University


This talk is focuses on the birth of software engineering.  It describes the computing and software world at the time of the 1968 NATO Software Engineering Conference, when personal computers and local area networks had yet to be invented, and the software industry had yet to be born. The very title of the 1968 Conference was intentionally provocative - it implied the need for, rather than the existence of, "software engineering". The conference had a major impact, not just on participants (who were from a variety of industrial and research backgrounds), due to their mutual recognition of the gravity of the problems that were plaguing many large software projects. I attempt to describe both the 1968 conference and the much less successful follow up 1969 conference, and the very different tasks involved in editing the reports that were produced from these conferences, before giving my views on how some of the topics covered have developed in the forty-plus years that have followed.

About the Speaker

Professor Brian Randell is a Welsh pioneer of modern software and system engineering. He originated and developed the field of software fault tolerance, which is one of the basic techniques used for the creation of systems that are dependable and safe. Professor Randell is among the first professors of computer science in the UK and has made a huge contribution to the development of the subject through 40 years of publications, software developments, initiatives, advice and service to national committees. His standing as a top computer scientist has been recognised internationally through honorary degrees and important appointments to advisory boards and committees. Professor Randell is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the British Computer Society (BCS), and the Learned Society of Wales (LSW). His current computing science research continues to be focussed on Software Dependability (in particular on failure analysis) and on the History of Computing.