Artifact Details


Boehm, Barry oral history, part 1 of 2

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Barry W. Boehm is a software engineer, professor of computer science at the University of Southern California, and former director of the Information Science and Technology Office of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He is known for his contributions to software engineering and software engineering process models. In this oral history with David C. Brock, Hansen Hsu, and Lee Osterweil, Boehm discusses his upbringing in Santa Monica, California, his education at Harvard University and UCLA, his career trajectory at RAND, TRW, DARPA, and USC, and his work on software development models. This oral history with Boehm is the first in a series of two.

Born in 1935, Boehm begins by describing his youth in Santa Monica, California, with a father that worked at Douglas Aircraft. He notes his affinity for sports and music, his work at the local public library, and his fascination with science fiction, particularly the idea that humans might reach other planets. He recounts being exposed to computers at RAND’s Santa Monica office during high school visits and discusses his eventual matriculation at Harvard University for his bachelor’s in mathematics.

While attending Harvard, Boehm worked for the aeronautical engineering department, and during his summers was employed at Convair (later, General Dynamics) in their San Diego computing laboratory, marking his first sustained exposure to computing. Upon graduation, he returned to California and worked at General Dynamics on missile simulations. He discusses his enrollment at UCLA for his master’s and PhD in mathematics in 1959, and his employment at RAND during and following his PhD.
Boehm describes the research environment at RAND, where he continued to work on computing in their engineering sector. He notes meeting his wife, Sharla Boehm, an ARPANET contributor and RAND employee, and the political tensions among RAND employees who worked there during the Vietnam War. He discusses the challenges and opportunities of software engineering at that time, and his publishing, in 1973, of a well-known article in Datamation that discussed the future prominence of software.

In an effort to focus on software-intensive projects, Boehm discusses leaving RAND in 1973 to go to TRW, where he was hired as the director of software research and technology. Boehm describes his work there on software process and cost models. This included the development of COCOMO, or the Constructive Cost Model, in the late 1970s. Boehm then briefly recounts his roles at DARPA as the director of the Information Science and Technology Office in 1989-1992, and his facilitation of a TRW-sponsored master’s in software engineering program at USC.




Boehm, Barry W., Interviewee
Brock, David C., Interviewer
Osterweil, Lee, Interviewer


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA






Oral history


Computer History Museum

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