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This chapter is from the book

1.3 Historical Context

The history of programming has been a slow and steady climb from the depths of direct manipulation of the underlying machines to linguistic structures for expressing higher-level abstractions. Progress in programming languages and design methods has always been driven by the invention of structures that provide additional modularity. Subroutines assembled the behavior of unstructured machine instructions, structured programming argued for semantic meaning for these subroutines, abstract data types recognized the unity of data and behavior, and object-orientation (OO) generalized this to multiplicity of related data and behaviors.

The current state-of-the-art in programming is object-oriented (OO) technology. With objects, the programmer is supposed to think of the universe as a set of instances of particular classes that provide methods, expressed as imperative programs, to describe the behavior of all the objects of a class.

Object-orientation has many virtues, particularly in comparison to its predecessors. Objects provide modularization. The notion of sending messages to objects helps concentrate the programmer's thinking and aids understanding code. Inheritance mechanisms in object systems provide a way both to ascribe related behaviors to multiple classes and to make exceptions to that prescription.

Objects are not the last word in programming organization. This book is about an emerging candidate for the next step in this progression, aspect-oriented software development. Aspects introduce new linguistic mechanisms to modularize the implementation of concerns. Each of the earlier steps (with the minor exception of multiple inheritance in OO systems) focused on centralizing on a primary concern. AO, like its predecessors, is about recognizing that software systems are built with respect to many concerns and that programming languages, environments, and methodologies must support modularization mechanisms that honor these concurrent concerns. AO is technology for extending the kinds of concerns that can be separately and efficiently modularized.

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