A while back, Alan Barnes asked for some ammunition for Ada's
side in the university language wars. As it happens, this note
arrived from Murray Kirch to the ada-first mailing list.
FYI, ada-first is a list devoted to Ada as a foundation
programming language in undergraduate education. You can join
by sending e-mail to [log in to unmask], with the usual
subscribe ada-first Your_first_name Your_last_name
Murray has some interesting things to say here. Enjoy.
> From [log in to unmask] Sat Mar 25 08:27:43 2000
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> Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2000 08:13:38 -0500
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> From: "Murray Kirch" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: A defense move in the language wars
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> Back in December Frances Van Scoy wrote to this list concerning pressure
> at West Virginia University to move away from Ada as the foundation
> language. At Stockton College we also have been using Ada in our
> introductory courses for more than a decade. We suffer from this same
> type of pressure. Recently one of the students in a section of our CS1
> course wrote a letter to the Dean of Students complaining about the use
> of Ada. This letter was forwarded to the dean of my academic division
> and then to my department. I volunteered to write a note to answer the
> student's concerns.
> The response I received from the student, my colleagues and the deans to
> my note were quite positive. Consequently, I thought members of this list
> may find it of interest. The original message from the student and my
> response appear below.
> This has, at least for a short time, brought about a lull in our local
> language wars. However, our side could use some reinforcements. If any
> Ada enthusiasts out there would like to move to the sunny seashore of
> southern New Jersey contact me. We are hiring now.
> --Murray Kirch
> [log in to unmask]
> -- begin message from student to Dean of Students --
> I am a Computer Science major here at RSC.
> I am taking Programming and Problem Solving I
> (CSIS-2101) in which we learn the programming language
> Ada 95.
> I have been looking for employment for sometime and no
> employer I have seen yet uses Ada 95. It is a US
> military programming language that according to
> the instructor is used. When I graduate in two years will
> I be able to get a job? Everyone uses UNIX, C++ or
> other well known languages. Why are we learning this?
> Is this school really preparing us for the work world?
> Thank you for your time.
> Walter Korch
> -- begin my response --------------------------------
> Your e-mail to Joe Marchetti was forwarded to the Computer Science and
> Information Systems Faculty. On behalf the CSIS Faculty, I am glad to
> have the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
> The main issue you raised is whether you will be prepared for employment
> when you complete your degree program at Stockton.
> The news is good! Even conservative estimates indicate the short range and
> long range overall job market for new graduates in computer science and
> related fields to be excellent. Currently there is a severe shortage of
> qualified professionals in this area and this shortage is expected to
> continue in the foreseeable future. However, let me point out that even
> during the economic slow down during the early 90's, graduates in computer
> science and information systems at Stockton did not have difficulty
> finding suitable employment. In fact, I am not aware of a single student
> who successfully completed our degree program and was subsequently unable
> to obtain employment related to his/her major.
> The current market is so favorable for recent graduates that even students
> with "mediocre" grades are getting their choice of offers. Some companies
> are trying to recruit students before they complete their degrees. Our
> graduates with no professional experience are offered entry level positions
> at an annual salary in the upper 40's and above plus substantial benefits.
> Students with a strong background can start at much higher salaries.
> Because of the severe shortage of qualified personnel, there are several
> avenues available to become prepared for entry level positions. In
> particular, there are programs that provide training in some narrowly
> focused field and there are academic programs that provide a foundation
> for a professional career.
> One could learn the elements of developing web sites or learn the basics
> of programming in a particular language by taking a few courses in a
> training program. This might even be done by taking on-line courses. This
> is a relatively quick way to become marketable but the opportunities are
> limited. The specific technology you learn, regardless of whether it is a
> programming language or a web development tool, will have a relatively
> short life. Java and the commercial use of the internet were unknown
> concepts 10 years ago. Twenty years ago C++ and Ada had not yet been
> developed. It safe to predict that the tools used 10 years from now will
> be different from those in use now.
> In contrast, the academic program at Stockton provides a balanced study
> of underlying concepts that have enduring value along with practical
> experience with a variety of tools. Our program is designed to provide
> students with solid preparation for entry level professional positions
> and for more advanced study at the graduate level. Many of our students go
> on to complete strong graduate programs at the Masters level and even at
> the Ph.D. level. Our former students are engaged in a wide range of exciting
> and challenging positions. These include work in the development of expert
> systems, networks, databases, software engineering, systems programming,
> multimedia development, business and scientific software development and, of
> course, the development of web-based systems. Some have even started their
> own companies. In the Sunday Press of Atlantic City (19 March 2000) there
> was a featured article about three young men who established a web-based
> enterprise. One of them was my student a few years ago.
> You expressed concern that the course you are taking, Programming and
> Solving I (CSIS 2101), might not prepare you for the work world. You are
> correct! No freshman level course by itself is going to prepare you for a
> professional level position. One doesn't become an economist by taking a
> freshman level ECON course and one doesn't become a chemist by taking a
> freshman level CHEM course.
> The purpose of our required core courses is to provide students in their
> freshman and sophomore years a strong foundation for more advanced study at
> the junior and senior levels. The main concepts to master in CSIS 2101 are
> to solve problems and to implement these solutions using a programming
> The programming language used in this course is a tool for accomplishing
> these objectives.
> Each language has its strengths and weaknesses. Students who complete our
> 4-year program have the opportunity to work with several programming
> For example, Ada is used in the Programming & Problem Solving sequence
> it is an excellent tool for teaching problem solving and software
> concepts. Although it happens to be a useful tool for serious software
> development (more on that later), it was selected for use in our freshman
> courses for pedagogical reasons.
> Many of the finest academic institutions select the language used in the
> introductory courses for pedagogical reasons and not on the basis of their
> current popularity. I think you will agree that the following list contains
> some of the strongest colleges and universities in the United States:
> Princeton University
> Yale University
> University of California at Berkeley
> Swarthmore College
> Oberlin College
> University of Minnesota
> University of Illinois
> Brandeis University
> Columbia University
> Indiana University
> University of Pennsylvania
> Rice University
> Iowa State University
> Syracuse University
> University of Chicago
> University of Florida
> Vassar College
> What do they all have in common? Answer: They all use the same language
> in their introductory computer science courses. I'll leave it as an
> exercise for you to search the Net to determine what this language is.
> You probably never heard of it. It is not as popular as Java, C++, or Ada
> for commercial software development. These institutions selected this
> language for pedagogical reasons.
> Other languages frequently used in Stockton CSIS courses at a more advanced
> level include C++ (Objected Oriented Development), Java (Operating Systems),
> Scheme (Artificial Intelligence), and COBOL (File Processing). When you take
> the Programming Language Structures course you will have the opportunity to
> learn at an advanced level about the design and implementation of
> languages. This course will enable you to properly evaluate the strengths of
> weaknesses of various languages and to determine which ones are good tools
> for specific purposes.
> As I mentioned earlier, computer science is an exciting and challenging
> You are just getting started in this field. There is a natural tendency to
> want to "get it all" right away. However, it takes years to develop
> professional competence. Our 4-year program is designed to help you develop
> this competence.
> I hope my preceding remarks have properly addressed your main concerns.
> However, I would also like to respond to your specific concerns about the
> Ada language. In particular you state
> > I have been looking for employment for sometime and no
> > employer I have seen yet uses Ada 95. It is a US
> > military programming language ...
> The largest employer of computer scientists in Atlantic County is the FAA
> Technical Center along with its contractors. Many projects at the Center use
> Ada as the development language. Many of our graduates use Ada in their
> Last semester, the CSIS faculty visited the Tech Center in order to
> a COOP program with Lockheed Martin, a major contractor. That company was
> particularly interested in having students with Ada experience participate
> this program.
> Ada is not a military programming language. It is true that Ada was
> under the sponsorship of the US Department of Defense, the largest user of
> software and computer systems in the world. The DOD wanted a language to
> support modern software engineering needs. Rather then develop it in-house,
> the best language experts in the world were invited to submit their designs.
> Eventually a French team won the contract. Although the language is used for
> the development of military systems, it is also used for many other types of
> projects. Ada is often selected as the tool to develop large software
> where safety and reliability are critical concerns. Consequently many
> transportation systems including railroad, aviation, air traffic management,
> and shipboard control systems have been developed using Ada. Ada is also
> for medical systems, NASA space program systems, banking and financial
> systems, and nuclear plant control systems. Of course, it also used for
> ordinary commercial systems.
> Ada is used throughout the world. It was the first widely used
> language to become an international standard. If you look at my web page,
> Resources for Computer Science and Math Students:
> you will find more information about Ada and its uses and more information
> about computer science in general.
> The freshman level courses you are taking now are intended to enable you to
> progress to the next level. The Overview of Computer Science course provides
> you with a broad view of the field. The Programming & Problem Solving course
> focuses on more specific areas essential for the study of computer science.
> As you master the concepts included in our freshman and sophomore level
> courses, you will become better able to understand and use the "marketable"
> tools included in our upper level courses.
> Please, do not hesitate to see me if you have more questions concerning our
> --Murray Kirch