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Thanks, Gang! Developers Talk Frankly About a Decade of Design Patterns

A decade later, the Gang of Four's "Design Patterns" is still a top seller and a "must read" for students and professionals. To celebrate its success, we asked programming professionals to tell us how this seminal work has influenced them. Some of their answers surprised us.


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en years have passed since Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides (aka the Gang of Four or GoF) wrote and published Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (1st Edition: January 15, 1995). And while most programming books that old are as passé as the technologies they covered or required second and third editions along the way, the GoF's seminal work still flies off bookshelves, despite being the same text that debuted in the fall of 1994—an eon ago in Internet time.

Design Patterns, which was first to formalize the idea of creating reusable object-oriented code solutions, still ranks among Amazon's top-selling computer science books, holding its own against much newer books that hit the shelves in the new millennium. Imagine seeing Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code still among Amazon's top-selling books in 2013. While we suppose it's not outside the realm of possibility considering the book's longstanding popularity, it would still deserve a celebratory nod toward the author.

Noting that many DevX authors refer to the book with great reverence in their articles, we were inspired to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Design Patterns. DevX circulated a brief, seven-question questionnaire to capture developers' thoughts on the book, its groundbreaking concepts, and the contribution of the Gang of Four. The following sections present each question and highlights from our authors' responses.



1. When and how did you first discover the book?
For most respondents, design patterns became a software development zeitgeist that they just couldn't ignore. Some were familiar with it from its earliest days, while others discovered it only in the past few years. Professional curiosity about a prevailing trend, recommendations from colleagues, and just keeping up with the Joneses sum up the reasons why they eventually had to get the book in their hands.

"Fear that other people knew stuff I didn't," said Brian Goetz, a principal consultant at Quiotix, about his motivation. "As usual, said fear was unfounded."

A different kind of peer pressure motivated Eric McMullen, a .NET and Microsoft SQL Server independent consultant. He observed that the experienced, successful programmers around him "focused on patterns, and nearly everyone with senior in his title has a white hardback book with blue letters and a blue ribbon sticking out of it: Design Patterns."

"I went into an interview, and they said 'do you know any GoF patterns?' I knew Singleton and had used some of the other patterns, [I] just never knew the name. I didn't get that job," answered Stephen Lum, a senior developer for Barclays Capital in London.



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