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"Team Ada: Ada Programming Language Advocacy" <[log in to unmask]>
Michael Feldman <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 3 Apr 2008 15:16:14 -0400
"Team Ada: Ada Programming Language Advocacy" <[log in to unmask]>
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[Jon asked]

(LONG response alert!)
>   Mike,
> Approximately how many inputs did you receive on the users of Ada ??

Well, I announced on March 20 - to Team-Ada, comp.lang.ada, and sigada-announce - that I was actively maintaining the catalog again. Between March 20 and April 1 I received perhaps 20 contacts, of which one was a deletion, a few just provided links, and the rest were additions. Since April 1 (2 days ago!) I've received another half-dozen or so.

> There is a sense out there that Ada seems to be leaving the USA and Western Europe and Russia going strong.
>  thnx   Jon Prescott

Well, the contacts I got were about 50% US, and those were divided between military and non-military projects. (Several of my contacts listed a number of projects I was unaware of.)

I was surprised by the large (and apparently increasing) number of military projects, which tends to refute the myth that DoD dropped Ada after the "mandate" went away in the mid-90s. Of course, DoD is a huge organization with a doubly-huge base of contractors, so generalizations are risky.

THere seem to be a number of Space Station projects - that is such an international undertaking that it's not easy to sort out US from non-US, but NASA does seem to be applying Ada there. The same, I think, applies to space exploration vehicles and satellites, both in the US and in Europe.

I'm starting to get leads to interesting desktop and web apps, many (probably most) of which are open source. These don't employ large numbers of developers, of course, but they are definitely interesting uses of Ada. You'll see more of these in the next edition.

Ada is definitely going strong in Europe, often in domains that we don't have here, like high-speed rail systems.

The EU is pushing very hard for standardized railway signaling systems. This is an area I know something about - as a lifelong train nut I read a lot of foreign literature on the subject.

European RR technology has historically been quite nationalistic/protectionist - e.g., French and German locomotives can't run on each others' networks. Each country has its national railway system, which tended to prefer domestic equipment for obvious reasons.

But this is changing under EU direction, especially in the RR signaling/control domain. New stuff must be ordered via Europe-wide (sometimes world-wide) competitive RFPs, so we're starting to see more interoperability. All the countries are (slowly) converging to a small set of signaling standards, and multi-system locos are starting to emerge so as to avoid changing locos at borders.

[Aside: the US and Canada run lots of diesel locos - not much electrification here. So US industry is REALLY good at building diesels.

[Interestingly, the most popular new diesel model in Europe has a funny European look, but it is built in Canada, and under the skin is a derivative of the good old General Motors SD-45. They get to Europe by ship, of course. Something like 600 of these are running over there, mostly in Britain but increasingly all over Europe.]

Naturally this is all heavily software-driven - modern trains have "glass cockpits" (flat-screen displays instead of physical gauges) just as planes do. And the speed controls and track switches are all computer-controlled. As far as I can tell, Ada is heavily present in all those systems over there.

Ironically, it is EXCEEDINGLY difficult to get information on these projects. In the defense and aerospace case, the agencies seem willing to give the names of projects, even if the details are secret. In commercial areas like railways, the companies involved are extremely competitive and compulsively secretive. (I don't think this is mainly a 9/11 issue, but just a matter of trade secrets and commercial competition.)

Is Ada in the railways over here? The US railroads are also investing heavily in infrastructure and new locos - those big shiny US diesels are VERY high-tech under the hood, though not as high-tech as (say) the TGV. But I can't get much info. The only confirmed Ada RR system over here is the New York City subway's Canarsie Line, which has communication-based train control (CBTC) derived from the Paris Metro Meteor system. NYC is starting to convert another line - the Flushing #7 line - I don't know if they're using the same CBTC scheme.

Amtrak's Acela Express and New Jersey Transit's new electric locos are derived from European (French and German respectively) loco technology. Are they powered by Ada? I'd sure love to know, but I'm a retired CS professor, not a professional investigate journalist.:-)

Sorry - this has a been a bit long, but I hope it helps.

Best regards,