WRITING computer software today is a laborious process. Each line of code must be individually written, compiled, tested, and then rewritten. 'Creating software is like creating individual art masterpieces,' said John Whalen, marketing manager of Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise Objects Program in the United States. But theres no reason why software cannot be quickly and efficiently assembled from modular, interchangeable parts as in an automobile factory. 'Seventy per cent of software code is exactly the same,' Mr Whalen said. He believed the 'software factory' of the not-so-distant future will create programs primarily with these pre-made building blocks - termed 'objects' in the computer world. Mr Whalen was in town to help promote Hewlett-Packard's Object-Oriented Solution Centre in the United States. Hewlett-Packard wants to help its corporate and business customers leap into the future by making the transition from conventionally-maintained software systems to object-oriented systems, which can easily shrink two or three hundred lines of code into three or four lines, Mr Whalen said. Hewlett-Packard consultants are helping hesitant corporations and businesses overcome both inertia and fear of the unknown. In future software development, pre-built objects will be held in a repository to be assembled when needs arise. Tasks and jobs will be delegated differently. Programmers, instead of writing code, will create generic and pre-built objects which each perform a certain function. The eventual goal is for business-side managers - without any specific computer programming skills - to be able to create custom programs for accounting, calculations, spreadsheets, and other functions. Object-orientated computer programming languages have been around for more than twenty years. Smalltalk, the most popular language, was developed in 1972 at the famous Xerox research PARC near Stanford University, which developed the first graphic user interface (GUI), which later evolved into the Macintosh and Windows operating systems. Another current popular computer language, C++, is a hybrid language which adds objects to a traditional written computer language. Both languages, plus the NeXT language, can serve as the 'infrastructure' of an object-based information system. Oriental Overseas Container Lines Ltd., a local transportation company, has already migrated to object technology to manage its information systems (IS). 'We had a vision of how objects could help increase our profitability and competitiveness in the marketplace,' said Steve Siu, deputy general manager of OOCL's Information Systems department. Objects in 'object technology' are not immutable entities: their strength is that they can be easily customised and rewritten. Because software code can be recycled, systems are easier to maintain and more responsive, Mr Whalen said. Object technology is also fast. He cited Union Bank of Switzerland which uses object technologies to manage and track more than 2,000 financial instruments which comprise its hedge derivatives fund. But companies of all sorts can benefit from object-oriented technology, Mr Whalen said. 'It doesn't matter whether you're a Fortune 1000 company with an in-house system or producing software for the open market.'