Friday, January 06, 2006

Big 'A', the three pillars, and the three 'F's

In the past I've asked "What are Form and Fit for Software CM? and gotten some very interesting answers. Configuration auditing for physical, functional, and process "integrity" (correct+consistent+complete) is a commonly recurring phrase in many classical CM documents and standards. And I was curious to understand how "form, fit and function" mapped from the physical world of hardware into the virtual world of software.

I assumed the "function" part was easy to map (functionality) and that it was the other two, form and function, that were hard. I also wondered where "the three 'F's of form+fit+function originated from.

That made me wonder if it had anything to do with the three pillars of Vitrivius from classical architecture. This goes back to an earlier blog posting about Commodity, Integrity and Simplicity that also discussed the Big 'A' (Architecture) and the three 'F's.

The classical Greco-Roman architect Vitruvius described the three pillars of architecture as Utilitas, Firmitas, and Venustas: Utilitas is usually translated as utility, need, or function; Firmitas as firmness, durability, or stability of structure; and Venustas as beauty, aesthetics, or having pleasing/attractive form.

I can see how beauty or aesthetics could be translated as "form", and certainly see how "utility" could be translated as function. I'm not sure if I see a direct translation between "firmness" and "fit" (perhaps the better the "fit" the more durable the structure?)

I am wondering if form fit and function evolved on their own, separate from form, function, and durability ... or if they are related and "durability" somehow got translated into "Fit" in CM circles. What is the difference between the three pillars of architecture, and form + fit + function for configuration auditing of product integrity?

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