How Software Testing Has Evolved Over The Last 50 Years By Dorothy Graham,
Software Testing Consultant, Speaker & Author:
It might be hard to imagine a world where computers had just 0.5MB of memory. Information was stored on magnetic tapes, software testing involved handwritten coding forms and the internet didn’t exist. But that was the reality just 50 years ago. Since then, drastic changes have occurred within the tech sector – transforming the way software is both developed and tested – so it is quite unimaginable what could happen over the next half-century.
So, what exactly has changed within the software testing space over the last 50 years?
Testing has become a growing profession:
Testing was once considered a necessary evil, or perhaps more accurately an unnecessary evil, within the sector. When it started to emerge, it was a common belief that if testing were not performed, there would be no bugs! However, this mindset has changed – testing is now viewed as a valuable and crucial part of the software development process. It has become a respected profession and there is a variety of international qualifications available to those who choose this career path. Not only that but testers can now have specialisms within testing, from performance to security, web-based to mobile, Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automation – and even different subcategories of automation. Testing has really mushroomed as a discipline and an area of expertise in recent years.
Technological advances have been vast:
As well as a shift from mainframes to mobile apps, emerging technologies have completely revolutionised how testers and software developers do things. There are also a range of commercial and open source tools at their disposal, in addition to vast informational resources including dedicated testing webinars, blogs and books. These resources and technologies offer greater support for testers, including the possibility of automation. Back in the day, coding forms had to be handwritten and manually punched onto punch cards with a machine. If there was a typo in the form, it was not possible for the programme to be compiled. Now, with high-performing computers and coding programmes, this process is much more efficient and effective.
We have achieved better integration of testing:
Technological advancements over the years have resulted in continuous integration of testing within the development process and testing is no longer squeezed in at the end of the development method as it once was. Moreover, testers now play a central role within the software development team, the knowledge they possess is much more extensive and automation has become an integral part of the approach. However, human or manual testing will always play a key part in testing due to the fact that end users are people and there may be scenarios or defects that automation will not be able to identify and detect.
There are more complex systems nowadays:
Compared to before, there is a much larger landscape of opportunities in terms of what can be developed from a software perspective. Furthermore, systems are much more interconnected compared to 50 years ago with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine Learning (ML). Testing is required across all these areas before products or services, such as self-driving cars, can be rolled out. As software and technology become more complex, the methods of testing also have to adapt. This will continue to be the case as the sector moves forward.
But not everything has changed…
The testing mindset remains the same:
For testers, their greatest asset is the tester mindset. And this is something that hasn’t changed over the years, nor should it. Where others focus on the positives and what they know, testers think about what could go wrong and the possibilities that others do not consider. Their professional pessimism is incredibly useful because it counteracts the optimism of the developer to ensure that alternative scenarios are explored, issues are considered, and problems are addressed.
More progress is still needed
While testing has followed the rapid evolution of technology and this pace of change remains constant, more still needs to be done in this space. For example, while there are qualifications available for people interested in testing, it is not yet taught at universities as a discipline. Moreover, a common issue testers face (there are exceptions!) is that managers still don’t quite understand this area therefore don’t realise the value of it. People who are new to testing also need to continue to develop their learnings, conduct research and expand their knowledge where possible.
Without a doubt, software testing has come a long way over the last 50 years. This progress has been driven by a number of factors including technological advances, better integration of stages with the software development process and a greater understanding of the role of testers. While certain aspects are the same and obstacles still remain, it is an exciting field which will continue to evolve at a rapid pace over the decades to come – which is why we look forward to seeing what the next half-century has in store.
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