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Grady Booch’s Early Years

IBM Fellow, Chief Scientist for Software Engineering and Free Radical Grady Booch has made—and is making—an incredible impact on the computing landscape.

Booch may be best known as the man behind the Booch Method, an object-oriented development methodology that dramatically changed how software is developed. He was also a driver behind the development of the Unified Modeling Language (UML), which brought several competing object-oriented development initiatives under one umbrella. But that’s not all there is to Booch. He plays the Celtic harp, is on the board of a museum, is an archeologist of sorts, and worked as an ice cream scooper as a kid. He also was a key founder of Rational Software, which is now part of IBM.

The fascinating researcher expounded on his role at IBM and a major project that he hopes will culminate in a multipart series for broadcast in the Next column in the January issue. Here he shares more on his early years, including visiting IBM as a 13-year-old kid, how UML came to be and his time at Rational.

Q. Could you explain how UML came about?
A. Here’s the short version: It came up around the time when there was a fierce transition happening in the space of software development, when languages such as FORTRAN and COBOL were predominant. At the same time I published my first paper on object-oriented design, Bjarne Stroustrup published his first paper on C, which was the predecessor to C++. It really was a different way of thinking. It’s unusual to think about it now, but the notion of decomposing a system based upon classes and objects was viewed as heresy and radical because the dominant method at that time was the notion of structured analysis and design.

But I wasn’t the only person floating these ideas around. There were probably two dozen or so really interesting methods that were being pushed, which resulted in what we then called “the method wars.” The marketplace was deciding, and ultimately it appeared that there were only three methods that the marketplace found interesting, both technically as well as in terms of support for tools.

So at Rational Software, we realized the fluctuation in the marketplace didn’t really make sense. We thought, let’s see what we can do to bring these methods together. We decided to hire Jim Rumbaugh, who was behind the object-modeling technique (OMT), one of the three other major methods, with the goal that Jim and I would unify our methods. At the same time, we were also doing business with Erickson using the Booch Method. Ivar Jacobson, who had developed the object-oriented software engineering (OOSE) method, was also doing a lot of work there, so in the end we decided to buy Ivar’s company. The three of us came together to form what I dubbed “The Three Amigos,” and we developed the Unified Method, and that became the Unified Modeling Language (UML). The rest is history.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.

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