Citing a need for specialised development tools for software engineers, Ready Systems Inc – still better known to most people in its previous guise of Hunter & Ready – of Palo Alto, California has introduced a set of design tools, called CARDtools, for real-time embedded software systems. In doing so, Ready Systems president Aryeh Finegold claims the company is introducing a new technology that he calls computer-aided real- time design, or CARD. Real-time design is extremely different from regular software design, and it requires different tools, Finegold says. Real-time software must provide results on time, on a deadline. Data processing-oriented computer-aided software engineering doesn’t address this issue. The cost of deadline failure in a real-time system is very high. It can mean lives, not just dollars. According to Finegold, who was an architect of the 80286 microprocessor while at Intel, CARDtools will enable developers to change the software architecture of a system and see the effects. With CARDtools an engineer can design a system around a 68020 microprocessor, check and verify its performance, and then substitute another microprocessor, an 80386 for instance, to compare system performance. The CARDtools package includes tools for: control map building, which provides a hierarchical structure; user-interface prototyping; hardware/software interface prompting for specifications; a package definition facility that lets designers build their own Ada-like libraries; a graphical editor and analysis tool; real-time performance verification; a program design language editor and analyser; and a report generator that produces DoD-2167 documentation. In a demonstration for Microbytes Daily, the program prompted the designer to explicitly identify the types of hardware being used, how often the software should check for data input, and the characteristics of data values. A key concept behind CARDtools is that of a common database, called a software bus, that provides an open system so that developers can incorporate their own tools, documentation formats, rules, and icons into a CARDtool environment. CARD technology will do for the real-time software engineer what CAE has done for the hardware engineer, Finegold claims. CARDtools will be available for IBM ATs and compatibles and DEC VAX/VMS, MicroVAX/VMS, and VAX/Ultrix environments, selling for $10,000 to $60,000, depending on the host.
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