Recently, Phil Kirkham mentioned a comment he’d heard that he was puzzling over:
“Of course, complete test automation is the Holy Grail of software development.”
The speaker was talking about interactive (user-driven) systems, and probably meant that automated test execution (do-this-compare-to-that), giving complete confidence in the push of a button, was this thing people searched for that had the magical ability to solve all your problems.
As I am a bit of an Authurian Legend buff, this intrigued me.
But what is the Holy Grail, really? WikiPedia says it is the cup (or maybe plate) used at the last supper – the one dipped in by both Christ and Judas. Or maybe it was a cup that held Jesus’s blood. In whatever case, it’s magical, and can heal people. Maybe. We think. Sorta.
As a Catholic, I do believe in the possibility of relics and sacred tradition, so I looked it up on Catholic Encyclopedia. You can read the entire article here, but just check out the summary:
A word as to the attitude of the Church towards the legend. It would seem that a legend so distinctively Christian would find favour with the Church. Yet this was not the case. Excepting Helinandus, clerical writers do not mention the Grail, and the Church ignored the legend completely. After all, the legend contained the elements of which the Church could not approve. Its sources are in apocryphal, not in canonical, scripture, and the claims of sanctity made for the Grail were refuted by their very extravagance. Moreover, the legend claimed for the Church in Britain an origin well nigh as illustrious as that of the Church of Rome, and independent of Rome. It was thus calculated to encourage and to foster any separatist tendencies that might exist in Britain. As we have seen, the whole tradition concerning the Grail is of late origin and on many points at variance with historical truth.
Let me put that in testing terms:
“As we have seen, the whole tradition concerning the test automation legend is of late origin and on many points at variance with historical truth.”
In other words, the Holy Grail is is the stuff of fairy tales, said to have mystical powers but never actually seen by anyone. King Arthur’s legend was an interesting story from my youth, a fun little adventure to pretend as a child – but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Perhaps you could say that test automation is the Holy Grail of software development, after all.