Ada 2012 has been described as “the next generation of the world’s premier programming language for engineering safe, secure and reliable software”. Admittedly, that summation comes from AdaCore themselves – in an article for the Embedded website – but they may not be far from the truth.

Ada, named after the great Ada Lovelace, dates back some 40 years having been designed to the one-size-fits-all programming language for the US military’s embedded systems. It was very much the baby of the US Department of Defense (DoD) who put a mandate in place, pressuring developers to use Ada for all military applications.

However, it couldn’t compete with a growing C++ wave nor the Java wave that followed, forcing the DoD to drop the Ada mandate – although it took 10 years to surrender in fighting the losing battle. During that time, a new version of the language had been designed, supplemented by an open-source project to make sure a reference implementation was available.

That free compiler, GNAT, managed to find its way into the hands of a small commercial entity, which thrived on the market left by others, providing support for modern architectures, completing the tool suite and enhancing the language. Thus, Ada lived on.

Fast forward to today, following the last revision of the technology in 2012, Ada has evolved into a modern programming language environment primed for embedded software development, with a focus on reliability requirements.

Commenting on Ada’s place in the world today, Quentin Ochem, technical account manager at Adacore, says: “Ada is here, off-the-shelf, released from its past DoD constraints, tested and improved over more than three decades of service in the most demanding environments.”

Ada’s time has come, Ochem suggests. He is buoyed by witnessing a new generation of developers discover Ada – are you part of that group?

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Jodie Scott