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I was having a conversation with a friend of mine (we'll call him Eric) about my article on rewriting software and he made an astonishing claim. "I think you low-balled the amount that the rewrite should reduce the code size. I'd be willing to bet that I could rewrite almost any piece of software in half the lines of the original. In fact, I'd take a fixed priced bid on a rewrite for anything up to a quarter million lines of code, get it done in a year, meet their coding standards, have 80% test coverage to boot, and do all the work by myself." That was a bit hard to swallow. A quarter million lines rewritten in a year by one person? IBM once did a research report that indicates that the average developer writes about 10 lines of functional tested code in a day. Here was Eric telling me that he could reliably write tested code at a rate of closer to 1000 lines per day, nearly 100 times that average.

I took it as a bit of a boast, but Eric is really a pretty hard-core guy. He's built at least six systems in the 100,000 to 250,000 lines of code range and he knows what it takes. He's in my top 5 developers list and since I've worked with him quite a bit I know that he can crank out solid code consistently and at a speed that is fairly unbelievable. While I doubt his claim that he could rewrite most quarter-million line programs in a year (turning them into 125,000 line programs), I don't doubt that he could do it in two. And I don't doubt that the code would be a lot better off when he was done.

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