Dr Byron Purves

Keynote: Dr Byron Purves

"Creating Systems: Experience, Anecdote and Metaphor"

Dr Byron Purves
ECBS TC Chairman

Byron Purves is a native of England where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Mathematics. In 1969 he went to the US and received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physics from Brigham Young University. His degree research was in automatic speech recognition. He joined The Boeing Company in 1973 as an acoustics engineer. Since that time he has worked in commercial aircraft (e.g., 757 preliminary design team), electric utility control systems (e.g. software manager), space (e.g., Robotics and Automation Manager for the Space Station program), and military systems (e.g., Battle Command architect for Future Combat Systems).

In recent years he has worked in homeland security disciplines, including nuclear and radiological detection, commercial aviation security, border security and biological threats. Dr. Purves is a Boeing Technical Fellow and past chairman of the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Engineering of Computer Based Systems. He has produced around forty publications. His particular interests include understanding the information needed to represent systems, and the art of developing large complex systems.

As a side venture he and his brother have developed a software product (Blues Begone) to help people recover from depression and anxiety. He has been married to Susan for forty years. They have six children and four grandchildren.

Engineering of Computer Based Systems TC Chair
Dr. Byron Purves


The Boeing Company
499 Boeing Boulevard, MS JN-80
Huntsville, AL 35824-6402
USA

Abstract:

Creating Systems: Experience, Anecdote and Metaphor

"System" is one of the most overused words in the English language. No doubt in other languages too. I once worked on a project that included this word twice in its title, with a different meaning in each case. One of the most challenging tasks we humans can undertake is to build systems that do what we intend without messing up anything else. This means that system engineers must have a profound understanding of the problem to be solved, the available technologies, applicable constraints, and implications for the environment into which the new system will be placed. This is a daunting task for which there is no magic process which when followed will assure success.

Even modest changes to existing working systems must be undertaken with care. We can at least learn something about how to engineer systems from successes and failures of the past. The system engineer must be expert in a range of technical disciplines, but this is not enough. Engineering systems requires a high degree of artistry, creativity and innovation. These are not qualities to be acquired in a conventional engineering curriculum, but for those with the inherent ability, they can be acquired through experience, anecdote and metaphor.
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