Where did all the
Code and Stuff go?


In the design of this site, it was intended to include some interesting (to me) code and tutorial work in Ada and GtkAda.  As you can see, it's not here.

I have become involved with Ada Safe House, a site dedicated to helping people who are just starting out in programming in Ada.  The material which would have appeared here, is now there.

Three Areas of Interest

Over the years, I have programmed in quite a range of languages.  I started, as did many in my era, with BASIC, started formal learning in Pascal (Borland Pascal finishing up with BP7) then did C, C++, COBOL and Ada83 all in the one semester.  I can assure you that that was an interesting little effort.  There have been a few more languages since.


Being something of a mathematical dyslexic, I found the symbolic languages (the spawn of C) to be difficult.  I much preferred the English-like languages, starting with Pascal.  Unfortunately, the people who controlled Pascal did not approve of the extensions Borland introduced to the language.  They obstinately stuck to the concept that Pascal was a teaching language and did not need all those refinements.  IMHO, had they approved those refinements, and probably some to follow, there would never have been a need for Ada.  As it is, I remain a dedicated Ada programmer which is pretty lonely.  There aren't many of us.

What is Ada?

In the 1970s, the United States Department of Defense realized that there were massive problems with its software systems.  It was policy in the Armed forces to rotate staff from one base to another every couple of years, and at each base they were using a different language or dialect of a language.  I have heard estimates of the number of languages/dialects in use (no-one really seems to know) as high as 1600.  That made software maintenance a huge problem and, consequently, hugely expensive.  Uncharacteristically, someone in high office made a decision to do something about the problem.  That solution was to come up with a language which could handle everything from the payroll to flying an ICBM.

USDoD sponsored a competition for the design of a new language and a team from CII Honeywell Bull, based in France under the leadership of Jean D Ichbiah won with the package which became known as Ada83.  Ada83 was followed by Ada95, and currently by Ada2005.  The name Ada is in honour of Augusta Ada Byron (1815-52), daughter of the poet Lord Byron,who is reputed to have been the first programmer having worked with the Difference Engine designed by Charles Babbage.  Ada is an International Standard registered with both ANSI and ISO which, I believe, makes it unique amongst programming languages.


One of the problems people have with Ada is that there is no graphics package in the core of the language (unlike Borland Pascal 7 which had an excellent package).  People starting out these days expect to present their programs with a Graphical User Interface, and Ada simply does not have one intrinsically.  One solution to this has been the appearance of GtkAda which is an Ada implementation of the C package Gtk+.  There are several other GUI packages for Ada, but I tend to use GtkAda.

If you are interested in having a look at GtkAda, a couple of tutorials I have written are Gadget: Building a Compound Widget with GtkAda and Walker: Working with a Multi-button Keypad in GtkAda.  They are, frankly, the outcome of the struggle I had to come to terms with the package.  I am pretty sure they will save you a lot of pain if you are starting out in GtkAda.

Web Programming

My current interest is coming to terms with the creation of websites using HTML and Cascading Stylesheets.  I am aware that there are a zillion packages which make writing a webpage much easier, but I am a bit of a control freak.  I do not like computer-generated code in the first place since my roots are in Software Engineering which is not Computer Science.  I like to write the code myself, and if the outcome is not all-singing, all-dancing and twirly-whirly well so be it.  At least I can be sure that it will do its job, dependably.

It is amazing what can be done with HTML and CSS, but much depends on the quality of the graphics you use, so I guess the next project will be to learn how to produce some quality graphics.

Prickly Puzzle

Early European settlers really scratched their chins over this one. No, it's not an hedgehog. And it doesn't have quills (those prickly bits are hair) so it's not a porcupine either. This one is uniquely Australian.

Its a marsupial which eats mostly worms and termites and so on - and that's not so odd.  What is odd is its reproductive process.  The female lays EGGS!  Then it feeds its babies milk!  It's a Monotreme, one of only two in the world (there are actually two types of echidna, but that's getting a bit technical) the other being another Aussie, the Platypus.

Echidnas are an 'at risk' species but you can still see them in the wild.  One turned up out the back of the hotel in which I was staying when I worked in Dumbleyung (in Western Australia's Central Great Southern wheatbelt).  A rare enough sight to cause quite a stir!