Who wrote SCons?
SCons was written by Steven Knight and the original band of developers: Chad Austin, Charles Crain, Steve Leblanc, and Anthony Roach.
Is SCons the same as Cons?
No, SCons and Cons are not the same program, although their architectures are very closely related. The most obvious difference is that SCons is implemented in Python and uses Python scripts as its configuration files, while Cons is implemented in Perl and uses Perl scripts.
SCons is essentially a re-design of the Cons architecture (by one of the principal Cons implementors) to take advantage of Python's ease of use, and to add a number of improvements and enhancements to the architecture based on several years of experience working with Cons.
Information about the classic Cons tool is available at http://dsmit.com/cons/
So what can SCons do that Cons can't?
Although SCons was not started to be the anti-Cons, there are a number of features designed into SCons that are not present in the Cons architecture:
SCons is easier to extend for new file types. In Cons, these methods are hard-coded inside the script, and to create a new Builder or Scanner, you need to write some Perl for an undocumented internal interface. In SCons, there are factory methods that you call to create new Builders and Scanners.
SCons is more modular. Cons is pretty monolithic. SCons is designed from the ground up in separate modules that can be imported or not depending on your needs.
The SCons build engine (dependency management) is separate from the wrapper "scons" script. Consequently, you can use the build engine in any other piece of Python software. For example, you could even theoretically wrap it in another interface that would read up Makefiles (a la Gary Holt's make++ Perl script).
SCons dependencies can be between arbitrary objects, not just files. Dependencies are actually managed in an abstract "Node" base class, and specific subclasses (can) exist for files, database fields, lines within a file, etc. So you will be able to use SCons to update a file because a certain web page changed, or a value changed in a database, for example.
SCons has good parallel build (-j) support. Cons' recursive dependency descent makes it difficult to restructure for good parallel build support. SCons was designed from the ground up with a multithreaded tasking engine (courtesy Anthony Roach) that will keep N jobs going simultaneously, modulo waiting for dependent files to finish building.
Should I use Cons or SCons for my project?
Well, this is the SCons FAQ, so of course we'll recommend that you use SCons. That having been said...
Unfortunately, Cons classic is essentially a dead project at this point. The last release many years ago (May 2001) and no one is actively working on it. This is really too bad, because Cons is still a very useful tool, and could continue to help people solve build problems if it got some more development.
In contrast, SCons has a thriving development and user community, and we're releasing new functionality and fixes approximately once a month. SCons also has a virtual superset of Cons classic functionality, the only things really missing are some minor debugging capabilities that don't affect basic software builds.
So at this point, probably the only reason to prefer Cons over SCons is if you're a die-hard Perl fan who really can't stomach using Python for your software build configuration scripts, and the functionality you need from Cons works well enough that you don't need new features or bug fixes, or you can get by with fixing your own bugs. If that's your situation and Cons is a better fit for you, then more power to you. Maybe you could even help get Cons kick-started again...
Is SCons the same as the ScCons design from the Software Carpentry competition?
Yes. Same design, same developer, same goals, essentially the same tool.
SCons, however, is an independent project, and no longer directly associated with Software Carpentry. Hence, we dropped the middle 'c' to differentiate it slightly, and to make it a tiny bit easier to type.
Even though SCons is being developed independently, the goal is for SCons to be a flexible enough tool that it would fit in with any future tools that the Software Carpentry project may produce.
Note that, at last report, the Software Carpentry project renamed their tools with the prefix "qm"--the build tool being "qmbuild"--so there shouldn't be any confusion between SCons and any independent build tool that Software Carpentry may eventually produce.
Although the information about the original Software Carpentry competition doesn't seem to be available any more, the project lives on as a source of teaching materials to teach software development skills. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_Carpentry for details and further links.