Exhuming McCarthy

I guess one of the telltale signs of the advancing creep of age is the passage of one's pop culture heroes into obscurity - another sign is the tendency to begin or end one's sentences with the phrase "back in the day." So rather than attempt to forestall the inevitable, I'm going to wallow in it for just a little while.

Back in the day, when REM was still on IRS records and still not quite popular, they released a disc called "Document" which contained what I think was their first hit single ("The One I Love") - it also contained an obscure song called "Exhuming McCarthy." This was the era when Borland C ruled the day, as unlike Microsoft C, it featured a nifty, productive IDE and didn't require a forklift to deliver. Right around this time, the Microsoft C team was getting into trouble, as the Borland C team kept eating their lunch - getting better and better and pulling further and further ahead with each subsequent release.

Things started to change with the release of Visual C++ 1.0, and the credit for the turnaround was heaped upon legendary project manager Jim McCarthy. His insights into the workings of software development teams and the heads of software developers were lucid, profound, and hysterically funny. He became very popular on the lecture circuit, and was widely quoted by people who never read a word he wrote or heard a word he had to say back in the day - the telltale signs he had become a pop culture hero.

Jim left Microsoft a while ago, but was kind enough to distill his collected wisdom into a short, easy-to-read book called "Dynamics of Software Development" (ISBN 1556158238, <200 pages in length.) I think everyone involved in software development should read this book at least several dozen times, and there was a time when everyone I knew involved in software development did or claimed to do just that (yes - back in the day.) Needless to say, I felt pretty old when I mentioned this book and its author to a bunch of younger developers who had never heard of either.

To my knowledge, Jim McCarthy the person isn't in need of an exhumation (although he hasn't posted to his blog recently), but clearly, a whole bunch of folks involved in software development could benefit from exhuming his ideas and reading what he had to write back in day. They still resonate 10+ years after its initial publication.