upThe NATO Software Engineering Conferences



Robert M. McClure

In the fall of 1968 and again the in fall of 1969, NATO hosted a conference devoted to the subject of software engineering. Although the term was not in general use at that time, its adoption for the titles of these conferences was deliberately provocative. As a result, the conferences played a major role in gaining general acceptance, perhaps even premature, for the term. The motivation for these conferences was that the computer industry at large was having a great deal of trouble in producing large and complex software systems. (Does that sound like deja vu all over again?) Participants were solicited from computer manufacturers, computer users, software houses, and academia. Over the years, the conference reports have gained a certain amount of classical aura. Since they have been out of print for some time, I felt that the time had come to make them widely available, if for no other reason than to let the current generation know what the state of the art was in the late 1960's.

NATO has kindly given permission for the reports from the two conferences to be made available on the Internet. The University of Newcastle upon Tyne is generously providing hosting for them. The two reports were scanned and passed through OCR software. The resulting files were edited and then formatted using Adobe InDesign, and then edited some more. Along the way I learned some things about Optical Character Recognition, namely that it is not highly reliable. For standard text, cleanly typeset and printed, the results are very good. For non-standard (read mathematical) text, and for heavily formatted text, the results were less satisfactory. In particular the software had considerable difficulty distinguishing between upper and lower case J's. It also found confusion with commas, right parentheses, and apostrophes. I hope I have caught these misreadings, but undoubtedly have missed a few. Along the way, I found and corrected some typographical errors in the original, while introducing some new ones of my own. I also learned some of the idiosyncrasies of spell checking programs.

All of the figures, save one, were redrawn using Adobe Illustrator. The scanned image was used as a template in an attempt to have the resulting figures as nearly identical to the originals as possible. I hope the resulting clarity proves to have been worth the effort.

Since the styles of the 1968 and the 1969 report were not identical, a compromise was chosen which does justice to both reports, while making them much more similar. A change in style was needed in any case, since the original reports were printed in 6.625 by 9.75 inch format and the current version is formatted for printing on 8.5 by 11 inch or A4 size paper. The 1968 report was prepared originally by traditional means using typewriters and paste-pots. The 1969 report was the beneficiary of early work done in computer typesetting at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. The original editors, Peter Naur and Brian Randell for the 1968 report and John Buxton and Brian Randell for the 1969 report, deserve enormous credit for producing these documents that have so well stood the test of time.

I would like to personally thank Brian Randell for his assistance in producing these web versions of the reports. His diligence in proof-reading has saved me from many embarrassing mistakes. Needless to say, any residual errors are mine alone.

Robert M. McClure
Benson, Arizona
July 2001


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[Last updated 21 March 2020]