One interesting and intriguing phenomenon in the software development is that the developers have to tackle several complications. We have already considered the formidable nature of systems analysis. Now we move on to another difficulty encountered in systems design that throws light on the complications involved in the process design and charting out of the various programs.
At the time of devising the programs, systems developers address two absorbing and challenging tasks of logic development and program development, as under:
(a) Developing the logic of a program/process:
Understanding and reasoning out this logic or algorithm is a daunting task calls for a discerning mind. One has to elaborate the program logic in a step-by-step and flawless way so that it could be explained to the computer in small pieces at a time.
(b) Express the logic in the selected programming language:
Once the logic is fully developed, it will have to be expressed in the programming language that is selected for your proposed system. This calls for articulating capabilities, mastery over the language, strong analytical bend mind and an eye for detail.
Extending the earlier problem of coinage analysis, the steps built up for the process in some natural language (say, English, Sanskrit, etc.) are now to be translated into some programming language such as C++, Java etc.
If these two activities - each of them sizeable and intricate - are attempted in one go, there are chances that some errors of logic or language may creep in the resultant programs. Hence it is necessary that these two steps are undertaken one after another. That is where the flow chart comes in as a nice bridging between the two. Thus, logical thinking on some process could be primarily expressed in terms of a flow chart that could then be used as a complete map for the program to be developed in computer language.
A program flow chart depicts the logic of an individual program. Borrowed from circuit diagrams is electrical engineering that shows electrical components and their connections, the flow chart is a modified version where the electrical components are replaced with logical operations like comparing, looping etc. across a plethora of heterogeneous programming languages, the common and consistent features are the following three basic programming constructs:
(a) Sequence: This is a natural flow of logic in a step-by-step manner, may it be a person reading a newspaper or a computer program executing some business application like say, the payroll. So long as no other construct (branch or loop) is encountered, the program would keep on running in a serial mode, one instruction followed by another next to it. This indicated with an arrow symbol in flow charts.
(b) Branch: This is a junction or a sort of cross roads situation where more than one paths are possible. It is typically decision making out of multiple choices. A program may decide about allocation of a railway reservation (or otherwise) based on availability of the required quota. The option of allocating or rejecting a seat will be taken based on the relevant condition that occurs at the run time. In flowcharts that is indicated with a diamond shaped symbol encasing the relevant condition. Such a diamond shaped symbol may have one arrow going into it, while the arrows emanating from it might be two or more.
(c) Sometimes, a set of steps is to be executed in a respective manner several times. A payroll process is run in a similar manner for all employees' records in the data file. This iterative or cyclic construct is indicated with arrows looping back to some earlier steps in the flow chart. The payroll steps are to be repeated for each employee starting from the first record and containing till the end of the file. Here, every time the condition would be tested (Is it the end of the file?) and the diamond shaped symbol will have two outgoing arrows. You will be find loop back for the same treatment to the next employee in the file and the other arrow to terminate the process. At program execution time (so long as this condition tests negative) the path will loop back to compute the payroll of the next employee in the file. On reaching the end of the file, the same condition be switched to the other one that does not loop back, rather proceeds ahead to close all files and stop.
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