I just finished reading Showstopper! by G. Pascal Zachary. It recounts the creation of Windows NT starting with the hiring of Dave Cutler in October 1988 and ending with the shipping of the first version of NT on July 26, 1993. The book puts a lot in perspective. NT took nearly 5 years of grueling work. The book spends a lot of time talking about the impact work on NT had on the personal lives of the team members. Many didn’t see their families much at all for extended periods of time. It wasn’t uncommon for people to pull repeated all-nighters. We seem to have learned something from this in the past decade.
The book also calls out the contribution of the testing teams. This is rare in these sort of books. I’ve read about the creation of the Mac, the IMP, the XBox, etc. and almost never is testing mentioned. It’s good to read a book which recounts not only the work done by developers but also the heroic efforts of the testers.
If you have an interest in computing history or in the development of large systems, this book is a good one to pick up. It puts you in the middle of the creation of the OS that runs on so many computers across the world.
I also ran across this interesting paragraph talking about the app-compat work:
The conflict stemmed from the differing priorities of the two sides. Intent on refining their general model, programmers didn’t want to distract themselves by fixing bugs. Meanwhile, testers wanted to test. This was a pointless activity when they saw the same bugs week after week. (p. 257)
That sounds a lot like what I was mentioning in my post about single-focus roles. Each side is so focused on what it is tasked with doing that it doesn’t take into account the needs of the other side.