we knew about program correctness.
Design by Contract is a transposition
to software of concepts that everyone
is familiar with. If I want to buy something from you, I have a certain set of
obligations to satisfy, and on your side,
you also have obligations. Your obligations map into my benefits and conversely. So, too, with preconditions and
postconditions in software.
Let’s talk about your move to ETH Zu-
rich, where you’ve been since 2001.
It was not planned, but it has
worked out very nicely. In 2000,
actually ahead of the curve. So coming
back from Portland, we refocused the
company on Eiffel.
You are also known for the idea of “
Design by Contract,” a method of assuring a program’s correctness by specifying the conditions that each element
must satisfy; there are preconditions,
which state what an operation expects,
and postconditions, which state what
an operation guarantees. Did that idea
evolve in tandem with Eiffel?
Yes. After reading the works of
Hoare and Dijkstra, it seemed like a direct, practical application of everything
FRENCH-BORN COMPUTER SCIENTIST
Bertrand Meyer—best known as an
early advocate of object-oriented programming techniques and creator of
the programming language and environment Eiffel—has enjoyed a varied
career in industry and academia. Currently a professor of software engineering at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology, he also has
worked at Électricité de France (EDF)
and at the University of California,
Santa Barbara, and he continues to
serve as CEO and chief architect at the
California-based company he founded
in 1985, Eiffel Software.
After receiving degrees from Stanford
and the University of Nancy, you spent
nearly 10 years in industry at Électricité
de France (EDF). When did you begin
working on Eiffel, the object-oriented
language and environment that you
continue to refine and develop?
In 1983, I got to spend a sabbatical
at the University of California, Santa
Barbara. A Japanese company got excited about a structured editor we had
developed, and in 1985, we decided to
found a company that’s now called Eiffel Software.
We were looking for a programming language. We didn’t like what
was available, so I designed a notation
that became Eiffel. Initially, I didn’t
pay much attention to it. But in 1986,
we attended the first OOPSLA (
Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications) conference
in Portland, and that’s where we realized that what I thought obvious was
DOI: 10.1145/2716347 Leah Hoffmann
The creator of the Eiffel programming language discusses his career
in industry and academia, “Design by Contract,” and his views on
Agile software development.
[CONTINUED ON P. 95]
Bertrand Meyer, professor of software engineering at ETH Zurich, and CEO and chief
architect of California-based Eiffel Software.