On Wed, 14 May 1997, Michael Feldman wrote:
> That was then, this is now. Both West Point and the Air Force Academy
> have switched to Ada as their CS1 language, and are indeed continuing
> it throughout the curriculum. There's no much hope for Annapolis,
> but then the Navy has always has its own way of doing everything.
Perhaps not at Annapolis, but Ada is alive and actively taught
at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Furthermore, there
are a bunch of important Navy projects currently under construction
in which Ada is the primary programming language.
Sadly, the [ incorrect ] decision to abrogate DoD Ada policy will
make it all too easy for future projects to be built with whatever
language is convenient. The new policy, more akin to legalizing
polygamy than effecting a nice clean divorce, will foment even
more arguments about language choice and result in some projects
becoming even more multilingual than they are now.
Moreover, the headlong dive into COTS, under the illusion that
best commercial practices are to be emulated, is a so fraught
with danger that I am continually surprised that anyone actually
took it seriously.
Commercial "best software practice" is far from best software practice.
Instead, it is best software marketing practice. I genuinely fear
for the safety of those personnel who are going to put their lives
on the line using some of the COTS software I encounter.
Abrogation of Ada policy will probably be the subject of future
regretful hindsight. I understand the difference between those who
are responsible for the decision, and those who reluctantly made
the decision. I continue to believe that a Department of Defense
which could not manage a single-language policy will find it even
more difficult to manage a multiple-language policy. And the program
managers, rather than making a correct choice based on good software
engineering policy, will be coerced into making such choices on the
basis of programmer preference.
More immediatelyly, I have been given some cause to be hopeful. I have met
some of the instructors who are teaching Ada at the service academies. In
particular, those at West Point and NPS. The West Point Ada faculty is
a study in excellence. I am not easily impressed by someone else's
classroon perfomance, but officers teaching Ada at West Point are
really special. Their combination of enthusiasm, ability to explain
ideas, and depth of subject knowledge lead me to believe that a new
crop of officers will graduate from the academy with a better
understanding of the software engineering issues than we could have
imagined just a few years ago.
The officers teaching Ada at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) are
also of very high academic and pedagogical quality. They too have
a real understanding of the need to take an engineering view of the
software process and recognize the importance of Ada in realizing
their students' understanding that process.
So, even though the Pentagon-level management has sent poor little
Ada shuderring into the cold, brittle, dangerous world populated by
wild creatures such as C++, those with an engineering view of software
at the service academies, those who care about the future reliability
of our warfighters and their tools, continue to support and teach
Ada to the future leaders of our DoD. Let's hope they continue to
be successful in this effort.