Ada proponents seek to increase programmer base

PHILADELPHIA - Proponents of the Defense Department`s Ada software language, which has suffered in recent years from declining interest among commercial users, struck back last month at the Tri-Ada `96 conference in Philadelphia with moves aimed at shoring up the base of Ada programmers within the military community.

By John Rhea

PHILADELPHIA - Proponents of the Defense Department`s Ada software language, which has suffered in recent years from declining interest among commercial users, struck back last month at the Tri-Ada `96 conference in Philadelphia with moves aimed at shoring up the base of Ada programmers within the military community.

Aonix of San Francisco, which formed in November when Interactive Software Products of San Francisco and Thomson Software Products of San Diego merged, used the conference as a platform to announce two agreements that company officials say will train 40,000 programmers in Ada 95 over the next three years using the Aonix ObjectAda compiler.

The first agreement, with the Defense Department`s Ada Joint Program Office (AJPO) to establish the Aonix Ada compilers as the standard for the U.S. service academies. Aonix officials this month will begin supplying 10,000 copies of ObjectAda for Windows and Windows NT, mostly to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., and the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Under the other agreement, publisher Addison Wesley Longman of New York will include the Aonix Ada compilers in two new books to be published this spring, Ada 95: Problem Solving and Program Design, second edition, and Ada 95 for C and C++ Programmers. Each is projected to have sales of 15,000 copies over the next three years.

A major obstacle to Ada acceptance has been lack of academic programs to prepare future programmers, says Barry Boehm, TRW professor of software engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who chaired a committee of the National Academy of Sciences on the outlook for Ada within the military. Boehm, a Pentagon veteran who keynoted Tri-Ada `96, said this "sociotechnological infrastructure" needs to be improved to make Ada viable.

The committee`s report, issued Nov. 1, cited a DOD-sponsored survey last year by IIT Research Institute in Chicago, which found that only 285 of more than 2,300 universities offering a computer science curriculum offered any courses in Ada. Moreover, 237 of that 285 universities are in the U.S., and many of them were community colleges and technical institutes.

But at Tri-Ada, U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Hamilton, Jr., instructor in electrical engineering and computer science at the U.S. Military Academy, said his school added Ada 95 last year to its core computer science course taken by all undergraduates. This means that every West Point graduate, regardless of major, will gain experience in Ada.

"The decision to expand the use of Ada beyond the upper-division software engineering courses into the engineering core sequence was not based on immediate operational requirements of the Army, but rather one based on the ability of the language to support the diverse educational objectives of many fields of study," Hamilton says.

Air Force Maj. David Cook, deputy head of the Department of Software Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology, adds that his institution made Ada part of its core curriculum in 1991 and that Ada has been the common core language in the introductory course in computer science at the Air Force Academy since last fall. That course previously emphasized Pascal.

AJPO officials chose the Aonix compiler because it was the only Ada 95 compiler that passed the validation requirements of the latest version 2.0.1 Ada 95 validation test suite, says Charles Engle, former AJPO director. "We believe that training all students at the U.S. military academies on a single vendor`s compiler will have a tremendously positive impact on the nation`s military for years to come," he says.

Aonix marketers say ObjectAda is the first object-oriented Ada 95 development environment for Windows 95, Windows NT, and Unix machines from Sun Microsystems in Mountain View, Calif., and from Hewlett-Packard Co. of Palo Alto, Calif.

In addition to ObjectAda for Unix and Windows, Aonix is developing ObjectAda Real-Time, originally pioneered by Thomson, for real-time, embedded systems. The initial product release was on Intel platforms running Phar Lap`s TNT real-time kernel, to be followed this spring by PowerPC platforms running VxWorks/ Tornado from Wind River Systems in Alameda, Calif.

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