15. Software Interfaces

With Cesare Pautasso

NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched.…

A navigation team at [NASA] used the metric system of millimeters and meters in its calculations, while [the company that] designed and built the spacecraft provided crucial acceleration data in the English system of inches, feet and pounds.…

In a sense, the spacecraft was lost in translation.

—Robert Lee Hotz, “Mars Probe Lost Due to Simple Math Error,” Los Angeles Times, October 1, 1999

This chapter describes the concepts surrounding interfaces, and discusses how to design and document them.

An interface, software ...

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