Licensing Software Engineers Is in the Works

IEEE is helping develop the first-ever licensure exam

4 min read
Group of adults taking a test
Photo: iStockphoto

THE INSTITUTEJust about every electrical device today contains software. A flat-screen television has thousands of lines of code and more than 10 processors. A mid-priced car can have as many as 20. Medical equipment, elevators, and even microwave ovens are run by software. But a poorly written program or a software glitch can cause a lot of harm when a car’s braking system fails, for example, or an insulin pump stops working, or an elevator gets stuck between floors.

If software engineers who write programs for systems that expose the public to physical or financial risk knew they would be tested on their competence, the thinking goes, it would reduce the flaws and failures in code—and maybe save a few lives in the bargain. That’s why IEEE has been working on an initiative to license software engineers who pass a competency exam. Several IEEE members are developing the specifications for the Principles and Practices Exam of Software Engineering, which is to be given for the first time in April 2013.

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The State of the Transistor in 3 Charts

In 75 years, it’s become tiny, mighty, ubiquitous, and just plain weird

3 min read
A photo of 3 different transistors.
iStockphoto
LightGreen

The most obvious change in transistor technology in the last 75 years has been just how many we can make. Reducing the size of the device has been a titanic effort and a fantastically successful one, as these charts show. But size isn’t the only feature engineers have been improving.

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