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Beautiful Teams by Jennifer Greene, Andrew Stellman

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Dealing with User Issues

One of the major tasks that we had to undertake was education and support for the users of the tool set. Most were unfamiliar with the Ada programming language, few knew any details of the processor architecture, and the tool set was new to all of the users.

Aside from dealing with some of the myths about Ada, the HADS team had to struggle with a general lack of Ada knowledge among the 777 developers. Ada is a powerful language with a lot of features that make it ideal for safety-critical embedded systems. These days it would not be considered to be a complex language, but at the time, it was considered to be a very complicated language to learn. Many of the software engineering concepts that Ada was designed to assist were foreign to the majority of developers. The HADS team had to take on a role as informal instructors in the use of Ada. For example, Ada's strong type checking can lead to difficulties getting programs to compile. This is an intentional attempt, in the design of the language, to catch inconsistencies as early as possible (during compilation) rather than at runtime. But struggling users tend to blame their tools. We were often called to help out some user with a compilation problem. Since most of us on the HADS team were very familiar with Ada, this was not difficult, but time-consuming. It also could lead to some tense encounters.

I remember being asked to go help Frank who was having some difficulties getting his code to compile. I went ...

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