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David Fisher <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 5 Apr 1998 10:38:19 -0400
text/plain (69 lines)
> [snip]
>
> "Ada is the most powerful language for real-time
> object oriented software."  [repeat sotto voce]

> [snip]
>

For what it may be worth....

My company manufactures industrial machinery for the aircraft and other
industries, and these machines are virtually all controlled by embedded x86
computers. To date, we've used MS C to write programs which then ran under
either MS-DOS or an equivalent single-user OS. While these programs do work
reasonably well, we feel that we could do better. To this end, having long had
an interest in Ada, we looked at Ada 95 and various RTOSes.

We have been looking for some time, and the result of this search is a
continuing dissatisfaction. As we're not a very large consumer of RTOS
licenses, we've been essentially ignored by manufacturers of OSes appropriate
for real-time, multi-threaded programs. There are several "free" OSes
available, e.g. Linux and RTEMS, but we need assistance in their
implementation, and the available resources make these choices anything but
free. As for Ada 95, we certainly can find one or two inexpensive compilers,
or even free ones such as GNU, but the available assistance options make these
far too costly for us. Mr Dewar mentioned support fees to us - if I recall
correctly - starting at $12,000 a year. For a company with a single
very-much-part-time programmer (me), that is, um, unrealistic.

When we looked around our area for educational resources, and I do not mean
necessarily free ones, we were laughed at by the many local universities (this
is not hyperbole, either; we actually were laughed at by the head of one CS
department when we mentioned Ada). The nearest school that uses Ada, a
division of the State University of New York located about as far from here as
one can get and still be in New York, never responded to our enquiries.

There are books galore, and we've bought most of them already, but, given the
constraint of part-time programming, we need more immediate and direct
assistance in adopting and implementing a new RT language. I cannot stop
working for a living to dedicate myself for several months to a single-minded
attempt to teach myself Ada in vacuo.

What's my point? One that both the Linux and Ada 95 communities might benefit
from considering. MS and Borland achieved success by peddling usable languages
and OSes at very low prices. These languages and OSes, for all their
imperfections, are usable. MS IDEs, such as the one that we use in VC v1.5,
are user-friendly and almost intuitive once one gets a little way up the
learning curve. Their OSes are almost usable right out of the box. Can you
imagine buying Windows NT and being told that you now have to recompile the
kernel in order to get your network card to work? Or being told that you are
free to use the $99 language compiler, providing that you first agree to a
$1,000 a month support contract?

In short, make the product useful to the end-user and usable with little
difficulty and aggravation, and your language, Ada 95 or whatever, will be
accepted. Otherwise, you'll be like the Edsel product manager, wringing his
hands in Detroit, demanding that the public buy his marvellous automobile.

--


        David Fisher
        Chief Engineer
        Fisher Research Corporation
        Rochester, New York
        [log in to unmask]
        716 328 4230
        fax 328 1984

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