Gerald Weinberg

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Gerald M. Weinberg (October 27, 1933 – August 7, 2018) was an American computer scientist, author and teacher of the psychology and anthropology of computer software development.


  • I believe, however, that humans are the only animals that we know who invents tools for working together - and they have done that as long as we have considered them human.
    • Gerald M. Weinberg (1992) cited in: Hannes P. Lubich (1995) Towards a CSCW Framework for Scientific Cooperation in Europe. p. 7
  • When program developers are not territorial about their code and encourage others to look for bugs and potential improvements, progress speeds up dramatically.
    • M. B. Douthwaite (2002) Enabling Innovation: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Fostering Technological Change. p. 116
  • We were doing incremental development as early as 1957, in Los Angeles, under the direction of Bernie Dimsdale [at IBM's ServiceBureau Corporation]. He was a colleague of John von Neumann, so perhaps he learned it there, or assumed it as totally natural. I do remember Herb Jacobs (primarily, though we all participated) developing a large simulation for Motorola, where the technique used was, as far as I can tell, indistinguishable from XP.
    • Gerald M. Weinberg, as quoted in Craig Larman (2004) Agile & Iterative Development: A Manager's Guide. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004
  • A system is never finished being developed until it ceases to be used.
    • Attributed to Gerald M. Weinberg in: Hannes P. Lubich (1995) Towards a CSCW Framework for Scientific Cooperation in Europe. p. 7
  • Let’s hope that no system of theory of systems will ever eliminate the other systems – that no approach will be promoted to a dogma, and no group of scientists will become the high priests. Shouldn’t we rather let a hundred flowers bloom...?
    • Weinberg (1976) cited in: Slawomir Sztaba (2010) "Economy and Sociology. The Likely Directions of Cooperation.". In: WFES. Vol 1, nr.1 2010. p. 218
  • If builders built houses the way programmers built programs, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization.
    • Weinberg attributed with the quote in: Murali Chemuturi (2010) Mastering Software Quality Assurance: Best Practices, Tools and Technique for Software Developers. p. ix

The Psychology of Computer Programming, 1971

  • Asking for efficiency and adaptability in the same program is like asking for a beautiful and modest wife. Although beauty and modesty have been known to occur in the same woman, we'll probably have to settle for one or the other. At least that's better than neither.
    • Chapter 2, page 22
  • We have come through a strange cycle in programming, starting with the creation of programming itself as a human activity. Executives with the tiniest smattering of knowledge assume that anyone can write a program, and only now are programmers beginning to win their battle for recognition as true professionals.
    • Cited in: Michael Jay Quinn (2006) Ethics for the information age. p. 415

Introduction to General Systems Thinking, 1975

  • The general systems movement has taken up the task of helping scientists unravel complexity, technologists to master it, and others to learn to live with it.
    • p. 3; Quote in: Dieter Spath, Walter Ganz (2008) The Future of Services: Trends and Perspectives. p. 226
  • Newton was a genius, but not because of the superior computational power of his brain. Newton's genius was, on the contrary, his ability to simplify, idealize, and streamline the world so that it became, in some measure, tractable to the brains of perfectly ordinary men.
    • p. 12; Cited in: Nawaz Sharif, Pakorn Adulbhan (1978) Systems models for decision making. p. 38
  • Science is the study of those things that can be reduced to the study of other things.
    • p. 30; Quote in: Dieter Spath, Walter Ganz (2008) The Future of Services: Trends and Perspectives. p. 226
  • The generalist, is like the fox, who knows many things. Just as anthropologists learn to live in many cultures, without rifles, so do certain scientists manage to adapt comfortably to the paradigms of several disciplines. How do they do it? When questioned, these generalists always express an inner faith in the unity of science. They, too, carry a single paradigm, but it is one taken from a much higher vantage point, one from which the paradigms of the different disciplines are seen to be very much alike, though often obscured by special language."
    • p. 34; Quote in: Franz Pichler, Roberto Moreno Diaz (1993. Computer Aided Systems Theory. p. 134
  • As any poet knows, a system is a way of looking at the world.
    • p. 52

The secrets of consulting, 1985

  • Helping myself is even harder than helping others.
    • p. 18
    • Quoted in: Hiebert, Murray, Hiebert, Éilish (1999) Powerful Professionals : Getting Your Expertise Used Inside Your Organization. p. 216
  • The principle is simple and powerful enough to be Marvin's Fourth Great Secret: If what they've been doing hasn't solved the problem, tell them to do something else.
    • p. 41
  • The Second Law of Consulting: No matter how it looks at first, it's always a people problem.
  • The Third Law of Consulting: Never forget they're paying you by the hour, not by the solution.
    • Citation in: Lowell Jay Arthur (1992) Rapid evolutionary development: requirements, prototyping & software creation. p. 9
  • Things are the way they are because they got that way
    • Quote in: Rex Black (2004) Critical Testing Processes: Plan, Prepare, Perform, Perfect. p. 12
    • Paraphrasing “Everything is what it is because it got that way.” D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1917), On Growth and Form

Quality Software Management: Volume 1, Systems Thinking, 1992

  • Quality is value to some person
    • p. 7, also in Weinberg (1993, 108); quoted in Matthew Heusser, Govind Kulkarni (2011) How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing. p. 95

Quality Software Management: Volume 2, First-order measurement, 1993

  • A controller that cannot control itself is worse than no controller at all: If you cannot manage yourself, you have no business managing others.
    • p. 9
  • If the software doesn't have to work, you can always meet any other requirement.
    • p. 111
  • The power of the Ten Commandments is magnified if you remember the Helpful Model: No matter how it looks, everyone is trying to be helpful.
    • p. 426

Quotes about Gerald Weinberg

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