Worth Reading: the Mythical Man-Month

I was discussing a totally unrelated topic with Terry Slattery when he mentioned a quote from the Mythical Man-Month. It got me curious, I started exploring and found out I can get the book as part of my Safari subscription.

After 10 minutes I was totally hooked. I rarely use highlighting when reading a book, and I never highlighted as much as I did in the last few days.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is old. Really old. Fred Brooks was managing the development of OS/360, an operating system that was about to become obsolete at the time I was in high school.

Don’t be surprised when he talks about hardware limitations like supporting 50 developers on a mainframe with 2MB of memory, or arguing that source code comments might be too expensive to be stored on disks (and are better left on punched cards).

I have very fond memories of IBM 360. The very first computer I worked on was a low-end model with 48K of core memory.

However, disregarding the technology trivia (which makes for fun reading, at least for people who had to deal with operating systems running in 64K of memory), all his other observations are still valid. Apart from better tools and faster hardware we haven’t made much progress in software development… or network design. Most of the ideas from the book can be applied equally well to the challenges of architecting, designing and building networks, so it’s well worth reading even if you’ll never get anywhere close to a software development project.

Finally, I couldn’t resist using a few quotes from the book in the introductory session of my network automation online course. The recording is already online; if you register for the next session you’ll get access to it immediately.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. Copy on the way.
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