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TEAM-ADA  May 2000

TEAM-ADA May 2000

Subject:

Re: Lamenting Ada

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Date:

Wed, 31 May 2000 09:21:20 +0000

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<..snip..>

>made in some quarters by software professionals whose interests are guided more
>by concerns for quality than ... well, whatever those concerns are that drive
>the decision for C++.

Money - or the prospect of more of it.

My impression is that many Ada users see a move into C++ as a route into Visual
C++ and programming applications for the desktop. (Similarly for Java and
programming for the web). There is certainly more money in it at the moment
(until the next "big thing" comes along), but it is more than that.

I get some job satisfaction in knowing that the software I have developed in Ada
is working, and working well, but I would prefer:

1) to be able to *see* that it is working well and
2) to have other people see that it is working well.

This basically means programming desktop apps.

The other thing I think is that of flexibility in the market. There is very
little demand for Ada outside the defence and aerospace markets, so moving into
C++ is a way of breaking out of that into e.g. mobile comms and so on. In
particular into industries where project lifecycles are shorter and offer more
opportunity for change. This was really the most significant reason for my move
from permanent to contract employment. The last program I worked on, in Ada, in
my permanent job lasted 4 years. Probably less than half-way through that I felt
I had effectively stopped learning and from then on had very little job
satisfaction.

>There are several ways we can reinvigorate the interest in Ada through
>the larger software community.  One is through some kind of leadership
>by someone with enough credibility to make Ada seem a sensible choice.
>This could be a corporation committed to Ada such as Boeing,

I believe this needs to come from a mainstream software company such as
Microsoft or Inprise (Borland), i.e. one of the major desktop compiler vendors.

>or through some "killer app" that represents Ada well in the marketplace.

The "killer app" could be Microsoft Visual Ada, or Borland/Inprise Ada Builder.
Borland do Delphi, so surely it isn't too big a step from that into Ada?

>Another approach is to harness the energy of Team-Ada in a campaign
>that results in placement of articles, success stories, and other
>positive information in the pages of publications that people read.

Again that needs some leadership. We have all seen the results of Team-Ada's
push on the ESP survey :-}

Seriously though, perhaps we should all consider writing articles that can be
submitted to the professional Journals e.g. I am a[n associate] member of the
Institution of Electrical Engineers who publish the IEE Review every now and
then (bi-monthly?), and the Computing and Control Journal (quarterly?). I could
write one, but I'm sure there are better qualified people out there! Maybe
everyone feels that way, so we end up with none!

>Already, I am seeing Ada mentioned favorably in more and more books.
>Even a recent O'Reilly book on embedded systems mentions Ada favorably
>as does Bob Binder's new book on Testing, as does another book on
>safety-critical software that is at office and whose author I am
>embarrassed to say, I cannot recall at the moment.

I too have seen a few comments on Ada in books. One was the Gamma et al Patterns
Book, and I believe "Eiffel: Object-oriented programming" also mentions Ada
favourably.

It would be nice, however, to be able to go down to my local bookshop and see
the odd Ada book in there now and again. This doesn't happen. Is it that Ada
book publishers need a bit of a kick to try to promote their Ada products.

Another thing is that over the last few months, GreyMatter (a software "shop" in
the UK),  appears to have dropped any mention of Ada from their adverts in the
computing press.

<..snip..>

>When I talk of leadership, I think of the very leadership by Dave
>Weller that originated this forum in the first place.  It was a
>good start.  Now we need to leverage this audience into a more
>coherent campaign, one that is thought-out, agreed-upon, and
>workable.  It should be a campaign that opens opportunities to
>all of the subscribers to make some little contribution.

Agreed, but what can we do? I have made suggestions via email to a number of
computing magazines in the UK regarding Ada articles. Perhaps I need to try
harder.

>We need someone who can prepare the press
>releases that the Ada compiler publishers should be preparing
>but aren't.  For example, where is the press release to
>Computerworld about the use of Ada in the New York City Transit
>System?  It does not exist.

A good point. Similarly I have not seen any mention in the press of JGNAT for
example. The only place I have seen JGNAT publicised is www.gnat.com!

>At present we have some successful Ada companies.  A small few
>are dedicated to only Ada products.  Most make up for lack of
>Ada sales by creating and servicing other products.

More and more however just seem to be dropping out of the market. Whatever
happened to TLD for example?

>You mentioned
>Robert Dewar.  He is certainly an example of leadership at the
>individual company level.  I don't think he is prepared, at this
>point, to take on the mantle of Ada industry leader since his company
>is new and striving to create its own niche.  On the other hand, it
>might be that this is exactly what is needed :  one really successful
>company fully dedicated to Ada and only Ada.

Robert Dewar already appears to make a lot of effort in promoting Ada, but this
often seems to be directed towards those who are already using it, or trying to
use it (very similar to the Team-Ada mailing list funnily enough!). I'm sure
that if he directed even half of this effort, full-time, towards promoting Ada
to non-Ada users, it would be very successful.

Would it be worth it on his part? It could be suggested that if Ada fails then
so will ACT, but many Ada systems are in place in long term programmes on
products with long life cycles. So Ada is going to be around for a very long
time, and so is the market for support to some extent. Additionally, as GNAT is
built on GCC, it would seem reasonable to assume that ACT would be easily
capable of providing support for GCC based systems also.

John

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