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The objective of this session is to introduce the subject of software engineering. When you have read this session you will understand what software engineering is and why it is important, know the answers to key questions which provide an introduction to software engineering, understand ethical and professional issues which are important for software engineers.


Virtually all countries now depend on complex computer-based systems. More and more products incorporate computers and controlling software in some form. The software in these systems represents a large and increasing proportion of the total system costs. Therefore, producing software in a cost-effective way is essential for the functioning of national and international economies.

Software engineering is an engineering discipline whose goal is the cost-effective development of software systems. Software is abstract and intangible. It is not constrained by materials, governed by physical laws or by manufacturing processes. In some ways, this simplifies software engineering as there are no physical limitations on the potential of software. In other ways, however, this lack of natural constraints means that software can easily become extremely complex and hence very difficult to understand.

Software engineering is still a relatively young discipline. The notion of ‘software engineering’ was first proposed in 1968 at a conference held to discuss what was then called the ‘software crisis’. This software crisis resulted directly from the introduction of powerful, third generation computer hardware. Their power made hitherto unrealisable computer applications a feasible proposition. The resulting software was orders of magnitude larger and more complex than previous software systems.

Early experience in building these systems showed that an informal approach to software development was not good enough. Major projects were sometimes years late. They cost much more than originally predicted, were unreliable, difficult to maintain and performed poorly. Software development was in crisis. Hardware costs were tumbling whilst software costs were rising rapidly. New techniques and methods were needed to control the complexity inherent in large software systems.

These techniques have become part of software engineering and are now widely although not universally used. However, there are still problems in producing complex software which meets user expectations, is delivered on time and to budget. Many software projects still have problems and this has led to some commentators (Pressman, 1997) suggesting that software engineering is in a state of chronic affliction.

As our ability to produce software has increased so too has the complexity of the software systems required. New technologies resulting from the convergence of computers and communication systems place new demands on software engineers. For this reason and because many companies do not apply software engineering techniques effectively, we still have problems. Things are not as bad as the doomsayers suggest but there is clearly room for improvement.

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Sample Questions from the Power Quiz

Question: What is the purpose of the hot wire on a load?


To carry voltage to the load

To carry voltage away from the load

To protect the user from stray voltage


Question: Which one of the following is correct:






Question: 208V is made up of...


2 hots, 1 ground

3 hots and nothing else

2 neutral, 1 ground

1 hot, 1 neutral, 1 ground

Question: When you meter an outlet what should the meter read?


About 120VDC

About 120VAC

Exactly 120VDC

Exactly 120VAC

Question: If you are metering the voltage coming out of an outlet, what kind of voltage is that?


Alternating direct (AD)

Direct current (DC)

Flux capacitance (FC)

Alternating current (AC)

Question: If you are to meter a cook top outlet, what should the meter read?


Exactly 240V

About 118V

Always 352V

About 208V

Question: What is the purpose of the ground wire on a load?


To carry voltage to the load

To carry voltage away from the load

To protect the user from stray voltage

Just for show

Question: What is the purpose of the neutral wire on a load?


To carry voltage to the load

To carry voltage away from the load

To protect the user from the stray voltage

To not take sides on debated issues

Question: If you have a circuit that is 120V and 20A how many conventional 2k fresnels can you plug into it?






All of them

Question: If an outlet is 120V and 20A and ALREADY has a conventional 1k fresnel plugged into it which of the following can be safely added:



5k fresnel

2k fresnel

1k fresnel

Nothing. It has reached its capacity.

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Madison Christian
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