Is software engineering different from other engineering disciplines? If so how?


While my first impulse was to say that software development by its nature is unique and different from other engineering disciplines, but on further thought I realized that this impulse was based more in the fact that I know a quite a bit about software development and rather ignorant about other engineering disciplines. This impulse also came from an immediate response of sorts from deep inside that was rooted in 'what I do is better than what most other people do', but I digress.

Getting back to the point, I'd say that since I have been a software engineer all my career sans any real working knowledge of other engineering disciplines, any view I might have on this comparison would be based on notions about other disciplines rather than real facts.

That said however, what I *can* say about software engineering is that while the management of the development of a software can be abstracted into a 'process' (CMM being one of the examples), the actual development of the software, as done by the analysts, designers and finally the engineers does incorporate creative elements as brought in by the people who are engaged in the endeavour. This creativity leads to different kinds of designs and eventually the end product, with differing goals kept in mind, however the one thing that is common to it all is that it is the practitioners of the craft that bring an element of art into the final product. This is what we usually term as a 'beautiful' design or a piece of code.

Abstracting from this, and drawing from my severely limited knowledge of other disciplines I would say that it is the practitioners of any craft that bring with them a certain element of 'art' to the engineering discipline. This makes it important that to learn the art, one must practice the craft while being exposed to as many of such 'beautiful' designs and end products as possible while immersing oneself in what it is exactly that makes it 'beautiful'. And I think this must be true for most other engineering disciplines as well - hence the presence of products from Apple, Ferrari, designs and execution of the Louvre, the Suez Canal to the Concorde in the vast sea of many other of their utterly ordinary peers.

Subhrajit Roy

Only in the sense that it is least interrupted by the material, therefore the constraints of the material. Which also means it disengages with the material in a much larger capacity and can lead to forms and designs which can propagate on their own terms. There is a lightness to this engineering and a cancerous mobility.