Technology is changing life as we know it. As machines learn to drive and fly, clean and organize, talk and provide information, they will become an integral part of our lives. Information Technology (IT) and software development are at the heart of this change.
This article provides a brief review of IT and software development and the evolution of software development. Read on to learn how the ever-changing landscape of IT and software development influences and interacts with technological change during the digital revolution.
What Is Information Technology?
The field of Information Technology (IT) uses systems for the storage, retrieval, manipulation, and transmission of information. IT systems are commonly used as subsets of information, telecommunication, and computers.
The term IT encompasses all the mechanisms involved in the operation of a system, and can refer to any of the following components:
- Hardware—the physical components of the system
- Software—the digital operating information of the system
- Peripheral equipment—physical devices that add functionality to the system
- Electronics—the chips and transistors that allow systems to make simple decisions
- Semiconductors—contain multiple electronic components that speed up the system’s processes
- Internet—the global network that enables information exchange via the Internet protocol
- Telecom equipment—hardware devices that enable information exchange over large distances
What Is Software Development?
The software is the state contained in the neurons within the brain, plus the instincts that are encoded into our DNA. Software controls the processes and functions of the components that make up the computer.
The field of software development covers the processes of creating software components, and can include any of the following stages:
- Idea—creating the core function of the software and identifying the targeted audience.
- Research—acquiring relevant information about the market and users. The analysis of the information will determine whether you should go through with the project.
- Specs—creating a detailed document that contains the guidelines for the desired outcome of the project. The Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document helps guide contributors such as project developers, engineers, and designers. These individuals work together to create the software.
- Design—a detailed plan that guides the implementation of the SRS. If the specs refer to the ‘what’ of your project, the design outlines the ‘how’.
- Programming—this is the practical stage of the process, which involves writing the software.
- Documenting—To keep track of all the information generated through the process, developers create documentation for each project. The documents contain vital information about the software components. This information is used to ensure the software remains up to date. .
- Testing—this is when you examine the viability of your software—is it doing what it’s meant to do? You can test your software during any stage of the development process to ensure that the final product is as error-free as possible.
- Debugging—you tested your software and found that it contains errors. It’s time to fix and remove the bugs you identified. You might like to run another test afterward to ensure that you identified all the bugs. It’s usually easier to debug software before deployment.
- Modification—if the final software doesn’t seem to meet the client expectations, the developer will be asked to modify the software. These are usually small changes that can be executed quickly.
- Re-engineering—this process involves making substantial changes to the structure and design of the software. It can happen if a client is disappointed with the final version of the software. Alternatively, a software owner might decide to hire a different developer to make improvements to the existing software.
- Maintenance—allows developers to correct errors or faults in the software after deployment. Although the software is live it still needs continuous care. Maintainance is usually done through the regular deployment of software updates.
While all of these components of software development are important, you can choose which processes are relevant for your project. You may also opt to run several processes simultaneously.
The Evolution of Software Development
In the 1950s, structured programming was born. Consumerism was booming, capitalism was expanding, and large conglomerates wanted to improve their business processes. To improve the computing processes of that time, developers created a structure of selection and repetition that improved the clarity and quality of the software.
The structured programming paradigm soon evolved into the waterfall methodology of software development. The waterfall breaks down the software development process into cyclical stages in which one step of the development builds on the next. The waterfall methodology usually starts with a requirement from the client, then proceeds to the design, implementation, verification, and ends with maintenance. There’s a clear beginning and ending to each project, which allows for a well-ordered structure of development processes.
Since the introduction of the waterfall methodology in the 1960s, many more paradigms have been developed. Yet waterfall development remained popular for years to come. Until, the 1990s when agile methods, such as Scrum and Crystal, emerged. Developers wanted to improve the development process and find an alternative to the strict waterfall paradigm.
The agile software development manifesto was written in 2001, introducing a paradigm that focuses on dynamic, continuous, and user-centric processes. Collaboration and people became the center of software development. The long and tedious planning involved in the waterfall process was replaced with quick software production.
Once the agile methodology replaced the clear structure of the waterfall, more development paradigms emerged. As inventors, developers, and computer science professionals worked side by side, their collaborative efforts gave birth to a flood of new and improved technologies.
Technological Change During the Digital Revolution
In the 20th century, Technological Change (TC) has given rise to the digital revolution. The process of technological invention and its distribution became quicker than ever. Software was no longer seen as a strictly commercial product, but also as an open source codebase. When software became available for public use, developers were no longer forced to write software from scratch.
Unfortunately, even as technology improved, it is never entirely secure. For example, while open source provides developers with ready-to-use modular components, it also opens the door to attacks. Developers and cybersecurity experts need to use vulnerabilities databases such as the NVD (National Vulnerability Database) and its CVSS v3 scores, as well as more advanced threat intelligence solutions, to keep track of all them.
As threats become more sophisticated, the process of software development becomes interchangeable with cybersecurity and IT. When threats come from any direction, everyone involved with the creation and maintenance of a piece of technology needs to join forces. Especially in a time in where technology touches almost every aspect of our lives.
New technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain disrupt entire industries as they make their way into our homes and our lives. The smarter your home, the more its operating tech knows about you. Do you know who listens on the other side of your smart coffee machine? Who maintains the intelligent device that keeps track of every step you take?
Nowadays, everyone retains data on everyone. From 500 future companies, Internet and cellular service providers, the government, and the guy you sent a file to via Dropbox. In the age of big data, software serves as the conductor and the channel through which information is distributed. A machine is powerless without its software. Therefore, software is at the heart of continuous technological change.
In a time when technology is used to crack human DNA and enhance human capabilities, there’s no telling where development will take us next. The landscape is ever-changing and the new best thing is only a few pieces of code away.