Ricardo Consulting Engineers, a 400 employee company founded 80 years ago, is a world authority in the design, development and research of internal combustion engines and systems. Its expertise covers gasoline, diesel and gaseous fueled engines for a wide range of applications from motorcycle units, to automotive units, to marine propulsion units.
The Ada System
Ricardo's services also embrace the transmission and many aspects of vehicle engineering. Its clients come from a wide range of engine, vehicle and lubricant manufacturers. Its operations now generate approximately $40 million sales annually and extend throughout the world, with offices in the UK and North America and local representatives in areas including Japan, Korea, and Eastern Europe.
With the aim of assisting the development and refinement of vehicle engines, CHASE, a high speed data acquisition system has been designed and developed entirely in house by Ricardo. The system is used to acquire, process, display and archive high speed data from engines under test conditions.
The Development of the Application
The Ada application forms a friendly graphical user interface to CHASE. It can be configured to acquire data from virtually any engine. Up to 15 channels of data can be captured using a variable pattern of acquisition in terms of sample rate and event triggering defined by the user to suit his needs. The user can specify the processing to be applied to the channel of data and the textual and graphical displays which are shown on the screen. Functions to view the data in greater detail, to archive the data, re-display previously archived data and enter notes for future reference are also available.
The application has been developed on a PC by using the Alsys AdaWorld development environment, running over a network. Over the development period, a total of 5 people worked on different aspects of the software. About 45,000 lines of code have been developed, which took about 2 and a half man years of effort.
Since the first issue of CHASE in 1991, it has been extensively adopted and significant effort has been invested in on going maintenance and enhancements. All source code is stored on a network of Sun workstations under SCCS, the Unix Source Code Control System, which is used to assist in configuration management, particularly on multi developer projects. The GSS CGI (Graphical Software Systems Common Graphical Interface) was used for the library of primitive graphics routines and an interface to these was built in Ada using the pragma interface mechanism.
Initial specification development was carried out using the Yourdon SEW (Software Engineering Workbench) PC tool which supports the Yourdon development methodology adopted on this project (with real time extensions). It is an interactive, graphical tool allowing the generation of data flow diagrams, state transition diagrams (used to represent the user interface), and a data dictionary. The development has been executed following the top down incremental design method.
Commenting on the choice of Ada, Julie Tonkin, Project Manager, states, "Ada was chosen because a real time, multi tasking system was required to facilitate the speed of data acquisition and the simultaneous display and acquisition of data." Ada also allowed Ricardo to minimize the amount of assembly required to interface to the hardware.
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"Security features such as packages, strong typing, and the reusability aspect of the package and generic concepts were seen as major assets for future work", points out Tonkin. In addition, Ada promoted a strong top down, incremental development approach that matched with the developers’ preferred design methodology. Tonkin concludes, "The readable nature of the language was certainly a benefit in a multi developer situation."
After more than two years in successful operation, CHASE is now under maintenance. "We are carrying out a regular program of improvements and enhancements to the software, for example, adding new processing options to extend the users options for processing and display of data", said Julie Tonkin.
Mr. Alan Jacobs or his assistant
Produced in cooperation with AdaIC, Ada Software Alliance, and ACM SIGAda.
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