Requirements for tools for comprehending highly specialized assembly language code and how to elicit these requirements

Jennifer Baldwin*, Alvin Teh, Elisa Baniassad, Dirk van Rooy, Yvonne Coady

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Program comprehension tools used with assembly language—often for maintaining legacy software or reverse engineering malware threats—are dated and fail to provide rudimentary features found in tool support for higher-level languages. The need for people who can maintain these legacy systems is growing, as is the number of malicious cyberspace threats. To build new visualization and analysis tools within this domain, we need to understand the unique challenges faced by these developers. This paper presents the results of an exploratory case study to elicit requirements from two uniquely specialized groups of assembly language developers in an industrial setting: a large multi-national company developing mainframe software and a government defense facility analyzing malware and security flaws. In addition to surveys, observations and interviews, this study applies social psychology and nominal group techniques. We provide a ranking, and detailed description, for the requirements elicited in each group. We further include additional requirements obtained from observational studies. The ultimate conclusion we reach is that while similarities exist at a high level, upon deeper inspection, each group is quite unique with regard to their tooling needs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)131-159
    Number of pages29
    JournalRequirements Engineering
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


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