Computing Pioneer, Author, Educator

Current Books by Robert L. Glass

In the Beginning 2.0: Personal Recollections of Software Pioneers

A guided tour by software pioneer Robert L. Glass through early computing and software engineering, 1940s-1990s. First-hand accounts of the people and innovations that made our age possible. Three female pioneers added for this new edition.

Software Creativity 2.0

Foreword by Tom DeMarco

Co-Author of Peopleware and Waltzing With Bears

In Software Creativity 2.0, acclaimed author Robert L. Glass explores a critical, yet strangely neglected, question: What is the role of creativity in software engineering and computer programming? With his trademark easy-to-read style and practical approach, backed by research and personal experience, Glass takes on a wide range of related angles and implications.

Software Conflict 2.0: The Art and Science of Software Engineering

Foreword by Andrew Hunt

Co-Author of The Pragmatic Programmer

As loyal Glass readers have come to expect, Software Conflict 2.0 takes up large themes and important questions, never shying away from controversy. Robert Glass has a unique perspective, owing partly to his longevity in the field, partly to his breadth and depth of experience as a practitioner, and partly to his experiences on multiple continents crossing back and forth between the worlds of the university and the professional programming shop.

Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering (Agile Software Development)

Foreword by Alan M. Davis

A note from Bob: "Originally titled 55 Frequently Forgotten Fundamental Facts, and a Few Fallacies, about Software Engineering, the publisher insisted on the shorter but less descriptive title because he said the longer one would turn off prospective buyers! Perhaps he was right—this has become a best-seller in both the US and Japan, and has also been published in Korea and Russia!"

More Books by Robert L. Glass

Robert L. Glass (also known by his nickname, Bob Glass) is the author or editor of more than 25 books. War Stories from the Electronic Revolution (2001)

A note from Bob: "Unlike Facts and Fallacies, this was a total dud in the marketplace! It tells the stories of dot-com companies that bombed. Perhaps all of that was too fresh and painful when it was published in 2001."

Computing Calamities (1999)

Lessons learned from products, projects, and companies that failed. Contains stories like "When bad things happen to good projects" and "When failure means success."

Software Runaways (1998)

A note from Bob: "This was another best-seller. It focuses on massive project failures, like the Denver Airport Baggage Handling System and the Internal Revenue Service Tax Modernization System."

Unlike the books in the above list, the following books were published by Glass himself ("It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it!") through his company Computing Trends.

Software 2020 (1988)

A note from Bob: "A contrarian view of the future of software development as seen with 20/20 hindsight from the year 2020. This is not your average "gee, how great it's going to be" view, in which today's computing research becomes tomorrow's state of the practice. Instead, Software 2020 is about an application revolution, a whole new way of managing software projects, an overhaul of software research, and the proverbial "much, much more.""

Computing Shakeout (1987)

A note from Bob: "Real "what happened and why" stories about some well known microcomputer companies that failed. What happened to the pioneers, like MITS and IMSAI? Why did Texas Instruments get out of the business? What caused Steve Jobs to leave Apple after he had brought it up from nothing? Get answers to these questions and lots of others."

Computing Catastrophes (1983)

A note from Bob: "More real stories, this time about failures of some mainframe companies. Astonishingly, computing leaders like RCA, GE, and Xerox withdrew from the market. Why was there so much failure in the midst of so much success?"

The Universal Elixir and Other Computing Projects Which Failed (1977)

A note from Bob: "Fictionalized tales about real failed projects. Reviewers have called this "the perfect programmers' bedside book," and proclaimed "Read it! Remember it the next time some wild new project is organized.""

Software Folklore (1991)

A note from Bob: "Stories about some of the very real special people in computing. The "intentionally strange boss," the "software thief," "the computer that never computes," and "every programmer's dream." Such a cast of characters—it will ring true to anyone in the computing field!"

Robert L. Glass Publications has a complete list of Robert L. Glass computing publications, going back to 1969, "An Elementary Discussion of Compiler/Interpreter Writing".

About Robert L. Glass

The biography below was written by Bob Glass himself, most likely in the early 2000's.

Robert L. Glass (Bob) has meandered the halls of computing for over 50 years now, starting with a three-year gig in the aerospace industry (at North American Aviation) in 1954-1957, which makes him one of the true pioneers of the software field.

That stay at North American extended into several other aerospace appearances (at Aerojet-General Corp., 1957-1965) and the Boeing Company, 1965-1970 and 1972-1982). His role was largely that of building software tools used by applications specialists. It was an exciting time to be part of the aerospace business - those were the heady days of Space Exploration, after all - but it was an even headier time to be part of the Computing Field. Progress in both fields was rapid, and the vistas were extraterrestrial!

The primary lesson he learned during those aerospace years was that he loved the technology of software, but hated being a manager. He carefully cultivated the role of technical specialist, which had two major impacts on his career - (a) his technical knowledge remained fresh and useful, but (b) his knowledge of management - and his earning power (!) - were diminished commensurately.

When his upwards mobility had reached the inevitable technological Glass ceiling (tee-hee!), Glass took a lateral transition into academe. He taught in the Software Engineering graduate program at Seattle University (1982-1987) and spent a year at the (all-too-academic!) Software Engineering Institute (1987-1988). (He had earlier spent a couple of years (1970-1972) working on a tools-focused research grant at the University of Washington).

The primary lesson he learned during those academic years was that he loved having his Head in the academic side of software engineering, but his Heart remained in its practice. You can take the man out of industry, apparently, but you can't take the industry out of the man. With that new-found wisdom, he began to search for ways to bridge what he had long felt was the "Communication Chasm" between academic computing and its practice.

He found several ways of doing that. Many of his books (over 25) and professional papers (over 90) focus on trying to evaluate academic computing findings and on transitioning those with practical value to industry. (This is decidedly a non-trivial task, and is largely responsible for the contrarian nature of his beliefs and his writings). His lectures and seminars on software engineering focus on both theoretical and best-of-practice findings that are useful to practitioners.

His newsletter, The Software Practitioner, treads those same paths. So does the (more academic) Journal of Systems and Software, which he edited for many years for Elsevier (he is now its Editor Emeritus). And so do the columns he writes regularly for such publications as Communications of the ACM and IEEE Software. Although most of his work is serious and contrarian, a fair portion of it also contains (or even consists of!) computing humor.

With all of that in mind, what is his proudest moments in the computing field? The award, by Linkoping University of Sweden, of his honorary Ph.D. degree in 1995. And his being named a Fellow of the ACM professional society in 1999.

On the personal level, he is the father of two biological and two adopted interracial children, and is married to Iris Vessey, an Information Systems academic.