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TEAM-ADA  June 2000

TEAM-ADA June 2000

Subject:

Re: Lamenting Ada

From:

AdaWorks <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

AdaWorks <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 4 Jun 2000 12:54:07 -0700

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (176 lines)

On Fri, 2 Jun 2000, Tucker Taft wrote:

> Despite Ada's disappearance from an "official" place
> at STC, the general sense of the people I saw was that
> Ada was at least spiritually "back" (if it ever left),
> and perceived as being one of various useful technologies.
> There was no apparent religious backlash against Ada.
> It was seen as a good tool for building reliable systems.

I originally title my posting "Lamenting Ada" because of the
increasing attitude I see among both DoD officials and DoD
contractors.  I am glad you had an experience at STC that
persuaded you of the goodwill toward Ada, but those who are
making the decisions are either badly informed or attached
to some agenda other than quality software for the Dod.

> I can believe that the DoD officialdom is still smarting
> from the general Ada history, but the rest of the world
> seems to be getting on with life.  Ada vendors continue
> to sell a healthy number of Ada compilers, now more than
> a year after the mandate was dropped.  Compilers and
> environments continue to improve in ease of use and
> overall quality.  Important platforms are being supported,
> and a wider range of users are finding Ada useful.

Agreed. With the extinction of "checkbox" compilers, the
Ada compiler publishers are producing better and more useful
products at more acceptable prices.  At least some of them
are.

> If anything, I think we should be upbeat that Ada continues
> to be there as a solid performer, even as other languages are
> hyped up and then fall out of favor.

Being upbeat does not eliminate the need for being realistic. Yes,
we are getting better press about Ada.  As you know, outside this
forum, out in the non-Team-Ada community, I have been an active
and upbeat advocate and salesman for Ada.  I continue to promote
Ada in a wide range of venues, including at non-Ada conferences.

When David Weller formed Team-Ada, it was the his intention we use
this forum for discussions of how to promote Ada, ensure its continued
acceptance in the larger software community and organize efforts to
make it a more widely recognized alternative for software development.

The efforts of people in this forum have begun to pay off in some
circles.  I have this quote from a recent book on embedded systems.

    "Ada is also an object-oriented language, though is is substantially
     different than C++.  Ada was originally designed by the U.S. Department
     of Defense for the development of mission-critical military software.
     Despite being twice accepted as an international standard (Ada 83 and
     Ada 95), it has not gained much of a foothold outside the defense and
     aerospace industries.  And it is losing groung there in recent years.
     This is unfortunate because the Ada language has many features that
     would simplify embedded software development if used instead of C++.

                                 Programming Embedded Systems in C and C++
                                 Michael Barr
                                 O'Reilly & Associate, Inc   1999
                                 ISBN  1-56592-354-5

> I would begin to ignore DoD officialdom as it relates to Ada.
> Certainly many people are switching from Ada to C++ or Java.  But
> also many others are not, and new people are discovering Ada.

It is hard to ignore the market for Ada that still represents the largest
source of revenue for Ada compiler publishers.  Will Averstar remain
committed to Ada if the pronouncements of  DoD officialdom finally kill
off the projects that use AdaMagic?  Can anyone imagine Rational continuing
to support Ada if its military contracts suddenly vanished?  I am as strong
an advocate for commecial use of Ada as anyone, but I realize we must
continue to cultivate successful use of it in the military sector as
we have done in the past.  We need to educate not ignore that DoD
officialdom.

> I am not trying to be a "Pollyanna" here, but we keep hearing
> that the bottom is going to drop out of the Ada market "any day now,"
> and it hasn't happened.  If anything, the "doom and gloom" serves to
> demoralize users of Ada.  Certainly there is more we can be doing
> in terms of promoting Ada, but clearly the best thing to do is to
> "just use it" (as Nike would say ;-) and succeed in so doing.

The last thing I wish to do Tucker, is demoralize anyone.  If you read
my original posting under this title, you will see it was a rallying
call, one intended to identify the need for more action among the
subscriberst to this list, an encouragement for us to develop a strategy
that can make Ada more visible.

I noted that ARA is not doing much about making Ada more visible as much
as a tweaking exercise as anything.  In fact, when looks closely, it is
difficult to see what ARA has done in the past few years.  Perhaps there
is a lot going on but little of it is visible, even to those of us who
look for it.  I repeat my earlier question.  Where are the published
press releases in Computerworld, Software Development, Embedded Systems
Programming, and various other publications?  Where is that full-page
advertisement in Business Week showing a picture of the Boeing 777
with the caption, "Ada Airlines" and a list of the compiler publishers
who provided the compilers?  Where is the ad in the the New York Time
or Wall Street Journal, "Ada Transit" proclaiming the selection of Ada
for the New York City transit system?  Where is there even a teensy
weensy public relations notice in Dr. Dobbs or IEEE computer announcing
the use of Ada for some system or other?

So we cannot depend on the ARA for this kind of thing.  Either they have no
resources, no interest, or no ability to carry it out. Therefore, it has
to be a "grass roots" effort, one not approved by anyone but simply organized
and completed by those with an interest in it.

This kind of thing has already had some success as evidenced by the work of
Richard Conn and Michael Feldman, among others.  If Team-Ada is going to be
a forum for action, then we need to begin to organize for action.  It
does little good for us to simply buzz each other with laudatory comments
or incestuous foreplay about how good it could be or how good it was. We
need some kind of outreach to avoid losing the audience we have, to encourage
new developers to become part of the Ada team, and to dispell the widespread
and growing notion that Ada is dying.

We are all on Team-Ada. We are all on the same team. How do we take this team
to the next step and make it action-oriented?  It is clear we cannot
depend on ARA.  Most of us are not allowed to be members of ARA.  So, we have
our own group.  Do we want to make it work or not?

> The Ada compiler vendors have done their primary jobs in my view,
> namely producing quality compilers, and at least some of them
> have figured out how to create a sales force that knows how to sell
> them and make money in the process.

They have an interest in selling to those who they know want to buy.  We
need salespeople, not order takers.  We need marketing, not simply holding
the line.  MOst of those involved in Ada compiler publishing have little
knowledge of aggressive sales and marketing.  They are left over from the
days of easy sales to the DoD.  They are not risk takers.  Unless they are
willing to go beyond their DoD, Federal systems Division, roots with
regard to Ada, they will simply be running in place.  For example, the
salepeople at Rational, if you ask about Ada, will defer the question to
someone involved in military sales.  Those not involved in military sales
are almost unaware that Rational has an Ada history.

> In my view, they are not under any obligation to "grow" the overall Ada
> market, presuming they are successfully growing their own revenues and
> profits.  Nevertheless, they have chosen to band together and
> form ARA, and at least part of the ARA's mission is to spread
> the word on Ada and grow the overall market, while another part
> is to support the existing users in various ways (e.g. validation,
> standardization, website resources, etc.).

You have just confirmed my initial point.  Ada compiler publishers do not
see themselves under any obligation to "grow the overall ADa market."  That
is a sad state of affairs.  OK, so ARA is chartered to grow the market,
along with other things.  It appears that those other efforts are taking
priority.  Very little is being done to promote Ada in the larger
software community.

> As users, our primary job is to use Ada where it is the right technology,
> and make noise when we succeed.  And hopefully enjoy the process.
> We don't have to convince the entire world to use Ada, even if
> it would do them good (I feel like a broccoli grower ;-).

Good analogy, Tucker.  When Emmeet Paige described, in his St. Louis
address to Tri-Ada, the reasons for abrograting the DoD Ada mandate, it
could be summed up in the phrase, "We just could not get those programmers
to eat their broccoli."  He noted how peopole kept coming to him and
telling him they hated using Ada.  At some point the apparently wore
him down, especially after the began to send in their own big guns
such as defense contractor CEO's who also complained about using Ada.

Even if we do not have to convince the entire world to use Ada, we should
try to encourage those who have been using it to continue to do so. ONce
again, since ARA seems to be saying, "We have no interest in putting too
much effort in to promoting Ada," if leaves a vacuum for someone to fill.
Perhaps only Team-Ada is populated with those who might be so motivated.

Richard Riehle
[log in to unmask]

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