The Story of My Life so Far - Part 85 - At the CAD (Centre d'Analyse de Défense) - Learning Ada

in story •  11 months ago

This is the story of my life so far: 68 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France

The story starts here
Previous episode: Part 84

When I was told that my next posting would be at the CAD, the "Centre d'Analyse de Défense" (Defense Analysis Center) at the end of my command of the Cybèle, I knew that I did not have a bright future in the French Navy.

I was 37 years old and I was considered to be a "technical" officer. That meant that I was not thought to be able to command a Navy force or manage a large number of people. I could have probably been able to get the command of another ship, but that would have meant to spend several years in an office doing things that I would definitely not enjoy.

At the end of my post at the CAD, I would have spent 20 years in the Navy, and I would be young enough to have another career that I would enjoy. There were opportunities at the CAD to learn new skills that would help me in the future.

I said before that the CAD was a "rather secret military research establishment". I should have said secretive instead of secret. The existence of the CAD is known publicly; the works done at the CAD are not publicized.

There are several teams of engineers, including one for each service: Army, Navy and Air Force. To each of these teams an officer of the service is attached to liaise with the military hierarchy and to answer questions asked by the engineers. I was to be the officer for the Navy team.

Most of the work at the CAD is done in computer simulations. Before my arrival at the CAD, most of the code there was written in the programming language FORTRAN. It was not very practical to program modern simulations with this language. The chief engineer of the Navy team, Christian Sautereau, had discovered the programming language Ada and had decided to create a simulation engine in Ada, that could be used for many simulations.

When I arrived at the CAD, I immediately made known to the software engineers of the Navy team that I had some experience in programming and that I would very much like to be involved in their programming work.
I had learned of Ada when I was in Halifax in 1980, and this language had seemed to me to be extremely interesting.

So, I asked to learn Ada and in November 1986, I went to a one week Ada course in Paris, given by the Alsys, the creator of one of the first validated Ada compiler. During this week, I met for the first time Jean Ichbiah, who had created Alsys and had been leading the team that designed the Ada language.

I became then involved in the design and the programming of the simulation engine. I even proposed to name it "ESCADRE". It meant originally "Environnement de Simulation du CAD pour Réaliser des Études" (Simulation Environment of the CAD to Perform Studies).
After more than 30 years, ESCADRE is still alive.

And this is how I was able to learn the Ada programming language that will have a big influence on my professional career.

Continue to Part 86

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