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Whatever happened to Ada?

As the number of available Ada developers continues to dwindle, the language is staging something of a small comeback, according to software industry observers.

On the wings of government dictates to standardize software, Ada became a highly touted language in the 1980s. The trouble was that the only people who used it heavily were in the military. Ada became a robust real-time language and runtime, but it never quite caught on, and when the U.S. military decided it was no longer a requirement for those who bid on tank and fighter programs, its days seemed numbered.

Ada is not mandated on the government's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project, but its use there is prevalent. ''People thought C++ or something else would replace it,'' said Chris Lanfear, group manager at industry analyst Venture Development Corp., Natick, Mass., ''People are hoping to reuse a lot of code originally written for the F-22 [fighter], most of which is in Ada.''

Lanfear said Ada took its big market hit a few years ago, and has been steadily, if not dramatically, rising. Meanwhile, he said, fewer ADA-trained developers means tool makers have a worthwhile niche in which to launch productivity-enhancing tools.

VDC estimates that the market for embedded ADA tools and services was $47.7 million in 2001. ''We see it as flat to slightly growing,'' said Lanfear.

Vendors respond to customer needs as Ada continues to be used. At the Embedded Systems conference (November 18-20) in Boston, I-Logix, Andover, Mass., introduced Rhapsody 4.1, a version of its UML visual development platform that includes an Ada Developer edition supporting Ada 83 and Ada 95.

Also at the Embedded Systems Conference, Aonix, Boulder, Colo., announced ObjectAda for Linux, which opens up the important new Linux program to the Ada community.

VDC sets the size of that community at between 8,000 and 10,000 developers as of 2001.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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