How helpful is Neumann’s dichotomy in correcting
the NHS setbacks? There’s no doubt that the multibillion-dollar budget attracted the highest-heeled consultants, well versed in all the best practices of SE (software
engineering), but not, apparently, consultants from CSI
via SRI International, able to translate wish lists into
timely, within-budget working systems with happy users.
Nobody at the NHS NPfIT level of expertise set out to
avoid all the goodies listed under holistic SD. Every single
item, from “pervasive” use of requirements and specifications through to design for maintainability, would be
noddingly ticked in the YES box.
A unified, central database with reliable, up-to-date
information and secure access controls is a major challenge for any industry, but for a national health service
it’s a matter of life and death allowing no room for compromise. Yet, scaling up from relatively trivial local trials
to a national, integrated network has proved intractable.
We are able to pontificate about decomposable architectures but unable to cope when the modules need to mesh.
The challenge set in my January/February 2008 column
was to find contradictory pairs of aphorisms. The trigger
example was “More hands make light work” in contrast
to “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” The winner is
Joseph M. Perret, who submits “Absence makes the heart
grow fonder,” conflicting with the unromantic but, alas,
realistic “Out of sight, out of mind.” I pause to note that
the latter is often cited as an early MT (machine translation) fiasco. It is said, and hard to refute, that this saying
was submitted to English-to-Russian then Russian-to-Eng-lish MT programs, producing the phrase “invisible idiot.”
Perret clinches his victory with the problematic pair:
“Mother knows best” and “Father knows best.” He defends
this as a true contradiction, claiming that the intersection
of his parents’ “wisdoms” was indeed the empty set. I suppose the trendy plural is knowledge sets! In which case, I
see a larger Venn diagram for my own immediate family.
They’ve joked about my grandfatherly omniscience ever
since I told them that I failed in the papal job application
by being overqualified in infallibility. Last Christmas they
gave me a T-shirt saying, “Forget Google—Ask Stan!”
Next column: L’Affaire Ledin continues. Should we
teach the innards of malware? Your views solicited. Q
1. “The new black” snowclone seems to have started in
1962 as the more colorful “Pink is the new navy blue”
when fashion editor Diana Vreeland noticed a swing
in Indian fabric preferences. Pedants will note (in vain)
that I’m taking liberties with C++ semantics.
2. This collectivism is deliberate. Brit football (soccer) fans
will be familiar with a team called the Hamilton Academicals, founded circa 1874. Fan-chant prosodies are
a tad more taxing than for those supporting Chel-sea
or Liv-er-pool! See my “Terrace Muse” (Daily Express,
1967). Inevitably, the uncouth Hamiltonians shorten
their noble team name to the Accies, not to be confused with the Addicks (Chalton FC’s nickname). Over
the years I’ve developed some mock sports-computer
collations, including such scorelines as: EDSAC 2, Leo
3 (friendly); Fortran 5, Modula 2; OS 2, Exec 8 (a fine
away win for Univac); ICT 1900, IBM 360 (game suspended); Motorola 68000, Intel 8086 (after extra time);
the Vista-Leopard game (late kickoff). Fresh examples
3. Neumann, P. Holistic Systems; http://www.csl.sri.
4. Leftish greens, who never leave their al dente sprouts
uneaten, would point to President George H. W. Bush
as an example of what happens to broccoli haters.
Alas, his son, Dubya, is quite fond of them. Whom to
5. D. C. Moulton defined the one-line-patch as “a kludge
so minimal that no testing is necessary. Corrected by a
further one-line patch.” Kelly-Bootle, S. 1995. TCC (The
Computer Contradictionary), MIT Press.
6. See any anthology of Greek myths by Robert Graves.
I/O is still a cow! Also TCC entries at I/O, mount, and
LOVE IT, HATE IT? LET US KNOW
firstname.lastname@example.org or www.acmqueue.com/forums
STAN KELLY-BOOTLE ( http://www.feniks.com/skb/; http://
www.sarcheck.com), born in Liverpool, England, read pure
mathematics at Cambridge in the 1950s before tackling the
impurities of computer science on the pioneering EDSAC I.
His many books include The Devil” ’s DP Dictionary (McGraw-
Hill, 1981), Understanding Unix (Sybex, 1994), and the
recent e-book Computer Language—The Stan Kelly-Bootle
Reader. Software Development Magazine named him as the
first recipient of the new annual Stan Kelly-Bootle Eclectech
Award for his “lifetime achievements in technology and letters.” Neither Nobel nor Turing achieved such prized eponymous recognition. Under his nom-de-folk, Stan Kelly, he has
enjoyed a parallel career as a singer and songwriter. He can
be reached at email@example.com.
© 2008 ACM 1542-7730/08/0500 $5.00