This article in the New Yorker seems to be making a splash "The Software That Builds Software".

Software that builds software is as old as the second day that the first piece of software was written. The second day, because coder (what we may now call a 'programmer' or a 'developer') realized that the computer target could do some of the work, deterministically, without typographical error, faster, and in some axes of metric, 'better' than a human can, and started to build tools.

And so tasks are delegated to the computers to perform

I am and have been active for years in a project which uses computers to building and test software, to ensure NEW software conforms to coding conventions for portability [1]. The testing computers are geographically disbursed, and it is unlikely I will ever physically see any of them that I do not own. Some do not not even have an independent physical existence, but rather exist 'virtually' inside other hardwareThey retrieve 'source code' from a distributed version control system. The article mentions 'git' and 'github', but we use another older variant. They are controlled by a textual and webbish control and status display interface [2] called a 'buildbot'

For this piece, to get some graphics, I just 'told' the control interface, via a text command, to start a job; I could have done it graphically, but I can touch-type much faster than I can move around a website with mouse-clicks:

lsb_bb> /msg lsb_bb force build app-checker-x86_64

and it acknowledged the request, and will assign it to a specific machine perform (there are several identically capable machines in that stable, and the software does 'load management' to assign it to an available 'worker' slave unit

11:35 =orc_orc> force build app-checker-x86_64 11:35 =lsb_bb> build forced [ETA 7m35s] 11:35 =lsb_bb> I'll give a shout when the build finishes

and as it build it updated the display [3], and keeps a viewable log of the process [4]

A few minutes later, the 'master' of the 'buildbot slave' tasked with the work 'told' me the work has been completed and that the test had succeeded:

11:42 =lsb_bb> Hey! build app-checker-x86_64 #91 is complete: Success [build successful] 11:42 =lsb_bb> Build details can be found here

This is not at all uncommon or magical, although it can be difficult to get 'right' in the usual case. Think of Mickey Mouse in the 'Fantasia' film. Those mops can get uppity [5]

I am not all that clear, beyond the 'gee whiz' factor why the article cited considered this remarkable. It just seems 'normal' to me.


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