I’ve been reading History of programming languages—II which is a book of a 1993 conference. There’s lots of interesting stuff, if you like that kind of thing, but I’m particularly struck by the section on Ada. There’s fun like the distinction between general-purpose and “embedded” computing, which is always somewhat hard to define:
In the early seventies these were generally called “weapons system computers.” A short time later they were called “embedded systems,” to convey the message that they also included functions such as control, communications, and intelligence as part of an overall system, not to their physically being “embedded” in a weapon… Later an Appropriations Act invented the name “mission critical,” which is certainly morale boosting anyway. Any attempt to parse these terms out of historical context is doomed. These distintions may seem esoteric to an outsider, but within the DoD the great religious conflicts of history pale to insignificance by comparison…
But the bit that struck me was at the far end, once they’d defined their language, they needed actual compilers for it:
It was never the intent that the HOLWG [High Order Language Working Group] would implement compilers. This was the prerogative of the individual Services and of industry. It was hoped that settling on one language would make it attractive for the industry to produce compilers as commercial products, without government funding or control (as it has worked out). However, it was important that the Services show support for the standard by putting their money into some products. If no one thought the Services were interested (and money spells interest), then why should industry risk its own money? It was not actually necessary that the the Service programs be successful, just that they exist. Indeed, there was a certain inhibitory factor; a company may not want to invest in a compiler for a particular machine if the government was doing the same and it might be available for free later.
I’ve no familiarity with Ada itself; on a quick glance, it looks clunky. But I’m a serial zealot – I was a Fortran zealot, then a Perl zealot, and am now a C zealot, so don’t expect me to impartially evaluate anything.
* Fiordland rangers prepare for stoat plague
* The Top 10 Retractions of 2014
* Does irony have a place in science?
* TIOBE Index for December 2014 – C wins; langpop.com – C wins; ieee – Java edges out C (boo!); Redmonk – C doesn’t win :-(. Ada is hard to find in all of these.