Norbert Wiener, perhaps better than anyone else, understood the intimate and delicate relationship between control and communication: that messages intended as commands do not necessarily differ from those intended simply as facts. Wiener noted the paradox when the modem computer was hardly more than a laboratory curiosity. Thirty years later, the same paradox is at the heart of a severe identity crisis which con- fronts computer programmers. Are they primarily members of "management" acting as foremen, whose task it is to ensure that orders emanating from executive suites are faithfully trans- lated into comprehensible messages? Or are they perhaps sim- ply engineers preoccupied with the technical difficulties of relating "software" to "hardware" and vice versa? Are they aware, furthermore, of the degree to which their work- whether as manager or engineer-routinizes the work of others and thereby helps shape the structure of social class relation- ships? I doubt that many of us who lived through the first heady and frantic years of software development-at places like the RAND and System Development Corporations-ever took time to think about such questions.
The science fiction-like setting of mysterious machines, blinking lights, and torrents of numbers served to awe outsiders who could only marvel at the complexity of it all. We were insiders who constituted a secret society into which only initiates were welcome. So today I marvel at the boundless audacity of a rank out- sider in writing a book like Programmers and Managers.
Publisher: Springer-Verlag New York Inc.