The Whole Knuth, and nothing but the Knuth

Hardware Engineers are from Venus, Software Engineers are from Mars

Letters Our examination of the language culture at Intel Why Intel doesn't write stuff down begat this correction, and some great responses from Register readers. Here' s one of great economy:-



Hardware Engineers (sub-category semi-conductor)
industry type: Capital Intensive
ethos: "Measure Twice, Cut Once"
motivation: "spins" are expensive- get it right buddy

Software Developers (sub-category applications)

industry type: Labor Intensive
ethos: "Release Early, Release Often"
motivation: keep the treadmill rolling

Analysis of

"Hardware, software? It's the same thing - with different interfaces."

in general = wrong.

It's a culture thing rather than incompetence. But then if you read "Inside Intel" you will see they go for talented hires. Also there is a selection effect to make the grade, trusting a million dollar tape out to someone.

Developers inhabit a continuum from just below real Software Engineers (those that have read Knuth and understood him) down to the burger flippers coding in VB to a spec someone else wrote. They are the post modern agricultural laborers AND THEY KNOW THIS really.


Ouch. You make your point very well - thanks.


One example of Intel's linguistic precision comes from a former inmate, who must remain anonymous, of course:-

We were instructed to always use the term "market segment share" rather than "market share" when talking to other companies, to avoid any sense that we were putting pressure on someone by claiming to dominate the market (apparently,
Intel was only dominating "market segments").

Instructions like these were given to people at every level of the organization, down to the lowliest engineer.

A fascinating detail.

"I have worked for sw firms that were equally as judicious (thogh not as ruthless) as Intel and have known hw firms as sloppy' as M$. Its the leaders(founders) personalities that count, I think,"writes one employee of a large systems company.

Wol Youngman asks if linguistics unites hackish types, as the crème do not throw their words around lightly. Perhaps to some extent, but I think it's broader than that.

Alpha geeks tend to be very good at a few things. Say an instrument or a craft or studying a foreign language. So rather than a language per se, I think excellent engineers need to delve into a system to understand how it is defined, which you must do, for example, when you play an instrument very well. Every system has its parameters and ontologies.

Finally, more letters on a variety of topics will follow. But thank you for your audio files. We asked what a wooden nose growing might sound like, and you have contributed some splendid entries. We shall post the winners (and the Rich Multimedia clips) very soon. Thanks, all. I'll sort out a suitable prize. ®

Sponsored: Designing and building an open ITOA architecture