Ada - DoD HOLWG, Col Wm Whitaker, 1993

Test & Evaluation

The next step in the process was an evaluation of the definition with public comment and actual experience in coding with it. Languages can take many years to mature because they are exercised by different users serially. The HOLWG attempted to speed up this process for Ada. This Test and Evaluation phase was intended to get many different organizations rewriting their particular applications [HOLWG, 1979b], which both exercised the language and exposed it to potential users. Note that this was a test of the language, not of implementations, which is more often the case in language evaluations for project use.

This exercise was conducted in the HOLWG tradition; a wide request for coding input, a large public meeting to present results, and solicitation (by the Deputy Secretary of Defense) of public comments on the Preliminary Ada document. An interpreter was made available over the ARPANET to anyone requesting access. The goal was to let users reprogram their applications in Ada to verify that the language was sufficiently powerful and usable. (I did a missile inertial guidance program at Eglin.) Since we were serious about exercising the language knowledgeably, training was provided for the participants. In June and July 1979, five one-week courses were held at Service institutions, Georgia Tech, and at the National Physical Laboratory in England. The instructors were from the language design team, and included: Jean Ichbiah, Robert Firth, and John Barnes.

The experiences and code results were reported at a meeting, 23-26 October 1979, in Boston at the Museum of Science [HOLWG, 1979c]. This open location was arranged by Carlson to encourage people other than just DoD contractors to attend.

Phase III

The third scheduled phase of the language design was a polishing of the definition as a result of the test and evaluation. Cii Honeywell-Bull was funded to revise "Preliminary Ada" and provide a final Language Reference Manual to be a military standard (MIL-STD). The process was supported by a group of technical experts known as the "Distinguished Reviewers", established and chaired by Carlson. Formal comments were solicited and processed electronically. Hundreds of papers were prepared on individual questions. On 24 July 1980 Cii delivered the revised design. On 25 August, the HOLWG voted to accept the product [Cohen, 1981].

Was it really as open a program as we said? The process seemed to be enormous and commenters sometimes felt overwhelmed. I myself submitted a number of revision comments from afar, as a simple user no longer involved in the contract. I thought to myself, as people will, that my insightful suggestions had mostly been rejected. I then did a quantitative audit and found that more than 80% of my suggestions had been incorporated in the final product.

In December 1980 there was an ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Ada in Boston [ACM, 1980]. This was the first technical conference on Ada not organized nor run by the DoD. While the meeting was taking place, Mark Grove, Chairman of the MSC-ECR, was in Washington settling final details on the MIL-STD. He managed to arrange that the MIL-STD be given the number 1815, the year of Ada's birth, and to get it approved on 10 December, the day of her birth. He could also announce the formation of the Ada Joint Program Office (AJPO) to supersede the HOLWG and maintain the language. Here ended the initial language development part of the project.