REVIEW - Ada-Vid (Introduction to JANUS/Ada) including Janus/Ada Extended. Tutorial written by Geoff Gilpin and R.R. Software staff


Ada-Vid (Introduction to JANUS/Ada) including Janus/Ada Extended. Tutorial written by Geoff Gilpin and R.R. Software staff


R.R. Software



R.R. Software ()




Colin Paul Gloster


April 2002



Ada-Vid is a video-based introduction to the Ada 83 language. It is from the vendor of the Janus compilers, but is suitable for anyone using any vendor's Ada compiler.

It comprises of nine lessons on videos, each lasting from about 25 minutes to roughly 90 minutes. Overall about nine hours. Fortunately there is also extra written material in the form of the Janus/Ada Extended Tutorial and its disc, which also has a quiz. The extra materials come with R.R. Software's compilers too, so if you already own one and have worked your way through those examples you might not see economic sense in buying a recording of someone showing you the exact same toy programs.

I didn't receive the book and disc. My supplier was unaware of them and could not find them in stock. R.R. Software had run out but was able to supply the disc's contents and the entire text of the book in a Zip file for me.

The course is not centred on embedded systems, but at least its treatment of the language is not too desktop-based. Unfortunately the prologue by Les Aspin, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, does nothing to shake off the stigma attached to using a language too many see fit to build weapons with.

The right level of detail is presented on the videos. Fully working, half-screen programs make the concepts and syntax easy to grasp. More examples and sometimes better or deeper treatment of some points are to be found in the Janus/Ada Extended Tutorial. Actually, an incorrect diagram on the second tape is corrected in the book.

Despite the name, this product is not specific to Janus and the platform dependencies are trivial. It would have been better if each platform-specific characteristic was pointed out but anyway most of them do not go uncommented.

Due to generics, technically non-standard input/output packages are used in many of the examples. A slight difference between the videos and the book is that the book has self-contained examples making use of I/O, but the nearly identical counterparts on tape import 'custom' precompiled I/O libraries until the final video shows how to instantiate generics. The book's versions may as well have been used, since there is practically no difference in the sizes of the two versions of source code. The book also defers explanation of generics for I/O to the last chapter.

Of course it could be argued that the videos' way cuts down on object code for commonly written datatypes, but part of the point of having a proper program demonstrating the concepts is that it can be compiled and checked that the syntax of the language has not been incorrectly relayed.

There are other examples where the book's and videos' postponing of topics results in early exposure to syntax before elegant variations are introduced. This is to be expected of course, so hopefully no harm done.

Not being a book, the videos feel easier to go through. A little humour in some of them dispels any dreariness. The humour is not excessive and luckily won't make you laugh too hard in the workplace. When simply Ada would suffice, often the instructor unintentionally says Janus or some bizarre mixture of Janus and Ada. His writing and the view of the monitor are fine, but the other way source code is displayed on the TV uses a poor font. Semicolons resemble colons, etc. It could be hard for someone unfamiliar with the syntax to figure out which punctuation characters are used.

Even the first standardised version of Ada is a large language, so major features did not receive treatment in the course. Many were predicted to appear in the sequel, but a follow-up was never made. Missing topics include concurrency; variations of aggregates; access types; details on fixed point numbers and generics (which received only scant treatment so that we could go beyond limitations in Text_IO).

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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