A History of Pair Programming

People have advocated and practiced pair programming for decades, long before it was ever called pair programming. Fred Brooks, author of The Mythical Man-Month [Brooks 1975], has communicated: “Fellow graduate student Bill Wright and I first tried pair programming when I was a grad student (1953–1956). We produced 1,500 lines of defect-free code; it ran correctly first try” [Williams and Kessler 2003].

In the early 1980s, Larry Constantine, author of more than 150 technical articles and 16 books, reported observing “Dynamic Duos” at Whitesmiths, Ltd., producing code faster and more bug-free than ever before [Constantine 1995]. He commented that the code benefited from the thinking of two bright minds and the steady dialog between two trusted programmers. He concluded that two programmers in tandem was not redundancy, but rather it was a direct route to greater efficiency and better quality.

Based upon research findings of the Pasteur project (a large sociological/anthropological study of 50 highly effective software development organizations) at Bell Labs Research, James Coplien published the “Developing in Pairs” Organizational Pattern [Coplien 1995], [Coplien and Harrison 2005] in 1995. Coplien identified the forces of this pattern as “people sometimes feel they can solve a problem only if they have help. Some problems are bigger than any one individual.” The proposed solution of the organizational pattern is to “pair compatible designers to work together; ...

Get Making Software now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.