Continuous Delivery from the 19th Century to TODAY

It somehow feels like the end of an era. The National Weather Service of the USA's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides AWIPS 2 (The Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) which has now advanced to the point that allows for the change to mixed-case letters. The switch will happen on May 11, after the required 30-day notification period to give customers adequate time to prepare for the change. Grief counsellors?

Continuous delivery is all the rage these days. The process entails, among other things, letting your system be incrementally updated, tweaked, modified, patched, etc., without causing consternation amongst users or stakeholders. You could roll out new features to subsets of users to gauge how well it works. Or perhaps roll out a new feature disabled, then enable it for everyone once under appropriate conditions. Or maybe your users need to make a hardware upgrade to support a new feature, so you could only enable it for those users that meet the necessary prerequisites. Of course, that introduces some complexity that itself bears a certain implementation risk, so perhaps you might choose to roll out a new feature only when all your customers meet the necessary prerequisites.

You might think that that sounds rather silly, but what if that software change is so revolutionary, so startling, so advanced, that it is worth the wait? (Are you on pins and needles yet?) Well, the venerable US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has deployed as of today, May 11, 2016, a change that, well, no one could have imagined.

But first, a bit of background. NOAA is the parent of the National Weather Service. NWS terminals in their day were like the Bloomberg terminals of today, i.e. the “go to” source for reliable information. NWS terminals were teleprinters, the devices that were arguably the successor to Morse code delivery. (And teleprinters did not need an operator!) So they have been around awhile, as the Wikipedia article details. Well, the National Weather Service, way back when, implemented software customized to deliver weather reports on teleprinters. And these teleprinters only handled a very small character set-uppercase characters, but no lowercase characters!! So NOAA and NWS have been working for a long time-literally decades-to update their equipment to handle lowercase as well. And, they could not make any changeover until all their equipment was ready to handle it. So it is with great aplomb that I can share with you this incredible headline from NOAA: National Weather Service will stop using all caps in its forecasts.