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The reason that the waterfall and its spawn document centric, specify then build processes has become popular has mainly to do with a paper by Dr. Winston Royce in 1970 where he began with an ideal proposition saying “wouldn’t it be great if we could do this”, and basically went on to describe the waterfall model. This is the most cited paper from people talking about the waterfall or similar processes.
What they mostly fail to mention is that Royce went on to saying that he didn’t think that this was possible and that he instead recommended an iterative approach. Because what he found is that there will be feedbacks from development into design and from design into spec once you start working with the implementation.
The reason the waterfall turned into such an international hit is that the US Department of Defense asked a tech writer to compile the standard known as 2167, and when that was approved, countries and companies worldwide said “if the DoD is doing it it must be good.”
Since then both Royce and the tech writer has, according to Bob Martin, spent their entire time trying to convince people that this was not their intention and appologizing for their errors. Even Royces son has been plagued by this, said uncle Bob.