The Project Notebook

Software Without Limits: More is Never Enough

Today’s “tale” may seem oriented to programmers and the software industry, but I am sure there are analogies in other industries. If this looks familiar to you, please drop me a note as a comment or by email.

One lesson I learned long ago in the mainframe world still applies today — one more is never enough. Users and clients will ask for one more item, one more element, one more word of storage. But this will never satisfy the insatiable need for more.

I wrote an assembler that allowed for approximately 4,000 labels. Before you know it, I had a request to bump it to 8,000 — my assembler was fast and the programmers were able to write larger programs. When that wasn’t enough, I took the hint and made the number of labels unlimited, subject only to the amount of storage available. The program ran for close to 12 years without maintenance. And they never ran out of storage for labels or complained the programs couldn’t be big enough.

So when software teams ask me to ask the client or user “how many?”, my answer is usually “as many as you can give” or “anticipate unlimited”. Think big! We can get faster and more storage inexpensively, so its ideal to minimize the need maintenance and the inconvenience of a wait for an update to add “just one more”.

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