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Becoming a Better Programmer by Pete Goodliffe

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Chapter 13. A Tale of Two Systems

Architecture is the art of how to waste space.

Philip Johnson

A software system is like a city—an intricate network of highways and hostelries, of backroads and buildings. There’s a lot going on in a busy city; flows of control are continually being born, weaving their life through it, and dying. A wealth of data is amassed, stored, and destroyed. There are a range of buildings: some tall and beautiful, some squat and functional, others dilapidated, falling into disrepair. As data flows around them, there are traffic jams and tailbacks, rush hours, and road works. The quality of your software city is directly related to how much town planning went into it.

Some software systems are lucky; they have had thoughtful design from experienced architects. They are structured with a sense of elegance and balance. They are well-mapped and easy to navigate. Others are not so lucky—a software settlement that grew up around the accidental gathering of some code. The transport infrastructure is inadequate and the buildings are drab and uninspiring. Placed in the middle of it, you’d get completely lost trying to find a route out.

Where would your code rather live? What kind of software city would you rather construct?

In this chapter I will tell the story of two such software cities. It’s a true story and, like all good stories, this one has a moral at the end. They say experience is a great teacher, but other people’s experience is even better; if you can learn ...

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