Traditionally associated with real-time defence and military markets, the Ada programming language is at last beginning to make waves in the commercial applications arena. According to Ada enthusiasts gathering in London last week for the second Ada Exhibition, organised by Ada UK, there are now a host of computer-aided software engineering tools and user support facilities designed to make Ada program construction and applications development much easier – and cheaper. The process has been characterised by two things. Firstly, Ada compilers now have a fixed target. All compilers are required to comply with the Ada validation suite, which up until now has been updated annually – every compiler has had to pass each successive test but the suite is now complete, freeing manufacturers from the confines of continually having to meet new requirements. Secondly, programming in Ada has always meant the generation of massive amounts of code written in accordance to a strict style. However, companies that have developed computer-aided software engineering tools in Ada – Systematica Ltd and Pafec Ltd for example – now estimate that applications can be developed five times more quickly – and cheaply – than in other programming environments, such as C and C++. Systematica’s chairman Andy Wells said that the Ada language itself is not particularly special – rather its productivity is based on the performance of supporting tools. Bournmouth-based Systematica’s Virtual Software Factory is a software engineering workbench written in Ada. It can support various structured design methods and programming languages for developing software engineering tools, and has been chosen by the European Space Agency for the design of the Columbus space laboratory. So far, 28 workstations running the Virtual Software Factory, worth UKP200,000, have been delivered, and the entire contract may bring in up to UKP1.5m in the end. The Software Factory can be implemented on Sun Microsystems workstations and DEC VAXstations amongst others, and a DECwindows version is to be available in the near future. Three-year-old Systematica expects to turn over about UKP2.5 this year. And Nottingham-based Pafec has now switched its main product development environment to Ada. Version 2.2 of its Puma package, providing low level utility facilities for Ada programming, is available from the end of this month. Pafec has also developed a user interface management system – Horses which combines a command decoder and object orientated database management system for prototyping and producing user interfaces for applications. Apollo Computer was also at the Ada show, demonstrating a new version 2.0 of its Domain/Ada development system, which is available for all its machines except the Domain 10000 Prism series.