Feeds

A tribute to Ada's Jean Ichbiah

Programming pioneer

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

black and white head and shoulders shot of Jean IchbiahObituary Second acts are rare in the computer industry but Jean Ichbiah, who died this week, managed it. Not only did he revolutionise software development for military computer systems with the Ada programming language, but he also devised a widely-used fast text-entry system for handheld computers.

Ichbiah was an atypical programming pioneer in many ways. At a time when it was becoming fashionable for programmers to wear their hair long and sport polo shirts and sandals, Ichbiah opted for neatly trimmed hair and stylish suits. I met him in 1979 just after his team at CII Honeywell Bull had won the Ada contract and, having no idea what he looked like, thought the smart, unassuming gentleman who greeted me in the lobby of a London Hotel was the public relations officer. Fortunately, I managed to conceal my surprise as it became evident that this was the man I had come to interview.

Given the complexity of negotiating with bureaucracy at the US Department of Defense (DoD), Ada's inventor needed to be a consummate diplomat and Ichbiah combined his undoubted technical skill with a master's degree in diplomacy. Even if he had realised I had mis-identified him, he was far too much of a gentleman to mention it.

Ada went on to change the way the US military - and the rest of NATO - built embedded computer systems. More importantly, in 10 years Ada usage is reckoned to have slashed the number of high level languages used by the DoD by a order of magnitude.

Ichbiah went on to found first Alsys - an Ada compiler development company - and, later, Textware - a company which develops text entry software for personal digital assistants (PDA).

He was awarded the French Légion d'Honneur and a Certificate of Distinguished Service from the DoD for his work on Ada. He was also a member of the French Academy of Sciences. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Intel's Raspberry Pi rival Galileo can now run Windows
Behold the Internet of Things. Wintel Things
Linux Foundation says many Linux admins and engineers are certifiable
Floats exam program to help IT employers lock up talent
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Linux kernel devs made to finger their dongles before contributing code
Two-factor auth enabled for Kernel.org repositories
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.