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Ada is a structured, statically typed, imperative, wide-spectrum, and object-oriented high-level computer programming language, extended from Pascal and other languages. It has built-in language support for design-by-contract, extremely strong typing, explicit concurrency, offering tasks, synchronous message passing, protected objects, and non-determinism. Ada improves code safety and maintainability by using the compiler to find errors in favor of runtime errors. Ada is an international standard; the current version (known as Ada 2012[7]) is defined by ISO/IEC 8652:2012.[8]

Ada was originally designed by a team led by Jean Ichbiah of CII Honeywell Bull under contract to the United States Department of Defense (DoD) from 1977 to 1983 to supersede over 450 programming languages used by the DoD at that time.[9] Ada was named after Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), who has been credited with being the first computer programmer.[10]


Ada was originally targeted at embedded and real-time systems. The Ada 95 revision, designed by S. Tucker Taft of Intermetrics between 1992 and 1995, improved support for systems, numerical, financial, and object-oriented programming (OOP).

Features of Ada include: strong typing, modularity mechanisms (packages), run-time checking, parallel processing (tasks, synchronous message passing, protected objects, and nondeterministic select statements), exception handling, and generics. Ada 95 added support for object-oriented programming, including dynamic dispatch.

The syntax of Ada minimizes choices of ways to perform basic operations, and prefers English keywords (such as “or else” and “and then”) to symbols (such as “||” and “&&”). Ada uses the basic arithmetical operators “+”, “-“, “*”, and “/”, but avoids using other symbols. Code blocks are delimited by words such as “declare”, “begin”, and “end”, where the “end” (in most cases) is followed by the identifier of the block it closes (e.g., if … end if, loop … end loop). In the case of conditional blocks this avoids a dangling else that could pair with the wrong nested if-expression in other languages like C or Java.

Ada is designed for development of very large software systems. Ada packages can be compiled separately. Ada package specifications (the package interface) can also be compiled separately without the implementation to check for consistency. This makes it possible to detect problems early during the design phase, before implementation starts.

A large number of compile-time checks are supported to help avoid bugs that would not be detectable until run-time in some other languages or would require explicit checks to be added to the source code. For example, the syntax requires explicitly named closing of blocks to prevent errors due to mismatched end tokens. The adherence to strong typing allows detection of many common software errors (wrong parameters, range violations, invalid references, mismatched types, etc.) either during compile-time, or otherwise during run-time. As concurrency is part of the language specification, the compiler can in some cases detect potential deadlocks.[citation needed] Compilers also commonly check for misspelled identifiers, visibility of packages, redundant declarations, etc. and can provide warnings and useful suggestions on how to fix the error.

Ada also supports run-time checks to protect against access to unallocated memory, buffer overflow errors, range violations, off-by-one errors, array access errors, and other detectable bugs. These checks can be disabled in the interest of runtime efficiency, but can often be compiled efficiently. It also includes facilities to help program verification. For these reasons, Ada is widely used in critical systems, where any anomaly might lead to very serious consequences, e.g., accidental death, injury or severe financial loss. Examples of systems where Ada is used include avionics, ATC, railways, banking, military and space technology.[11][12]

Ada’s dynamic memory management is high-level and type-safe. Ada does not have generic or untyped pointers; nor does it implicitly declare any pointer type. Instead, all dynamic memory allocation and deallocation must take place through explicitly declared access types. Each access type has an associated storage pool that handles the low-level details of memory management; the programmer can either use the default storage pool or define new ones (this is particularly relevant for Non-Uniform Memory Access). It is even possible to declare several different access types that all designate the same type but use different storage pools. Also, the language provides for accessibility checks, both at compile time and at run time, that ensures that an access value cannot outlive the type of the object it points to.

Though the semantics of the language allow automatic garbage collection of inaccessible objects, most implementations do not support it by default, as it would cause unpredictable behaviour in real-time systems. Ada does support a limited form of region-based memory management; also, creative use of storage pools can provide for a limited form of automatic garbage collection, since destroying a storage pool also destroys all the objects in the pool.

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Ada was designed to resemble the English language in its syntax for comments: a double-dash (“–“), resembling an em dash, denotes comment text. Comments stop at end of line, so there is no danger of unclosed comments accidentally voiding whole sections of source code. Prefixing each line (or column) with “–” will skip all that code, while being clearly denoted as a column of repeated “–” down the page. There is no limit to the nesting of comments, thereby allowing prior code, with commented-out sections, to be commented-out as even larger sections. All Unicode characters are allowed in comments, such as for symbolic formulas (E[0]=m×c²). To the compiler, the double-dash is treated as end-of-line, allowing continued parsing of the language as a context-free grammar.

The semicolon (“;”) is a statement terminator, and the null or no-operation statement is null;. A single ; without a statement to terminate is not allowed.

Unlike most ISO standards, the Ada language definition (known as the Ada Reference Manual or ARM, or sometimes the Language Reference Manual or LRM) is free content. Thus, it is a common reference for Ada programmers and not just programmers implementing Ada compilers. Apart from the reference manual, there is also an extensive rationale document which explains the language design and the use of various language constructs. This document is also widely used by programmers. When the language was revised, a new rationale document was written.

One notable free software tool that is used by many Ada programmers to aid them in writing Ada source code is the GNAT Programming Studio.


The language became an ANSI standard in 1983 (ANSI/MIL-STD 1815A), and without any further changes became an ISO standard in 1987 (ISO-8652:1987). This version of the language is commonly known as Ada 83, from the date of its adoption by ANSI, but is sometimes referred to also as Ada 87, from the date of its adoption by ISO.

Ada 95, the joint ISO/ANSI standard (ISO-8652:1995) was published in February 1995, making Ada 95 the first ISO standard object-oriented programming language. To help with the standard revision and future acceptance, the US Air Force funded the development of the GNAT Compiler. Presently, the GNAT Compiler is part of the GNU Compiler Collection.

Work has continued on improving and updating the technical content of the Ada programming language. A Technical Corrigendum to Ada 95 was published in October 2001, and a major Amendment, ISO/IEC 8652:1995/Amd 1:2007 was published on March 9, 2007. At the Ada-Europe 2012 conference in Stockholm, the Ada Resource Association (ARA) and Ada-Europe announced the completion of the design of the latest version of the Ada programming language and the submission of the reference manual to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for approval. ISO/IEC 8652:2012 was published in December 2012.[8]

Other related standards include ISO 8651-3:1988 Information processing systems—Computer graphics—Graphical Kernel System (GKS) language bindings—Part 3: Ada.

Language constructs

Ada is an ALGOL-like programming language featuring control structures with reserved words such as if, then, else, while, for, and so on. However, Ada also has many data structuring facilities and other abstractions which were not included in the original ALGOL 60, such as type definitions, records, pointers, enumerations. Such constructs were in part inherited from or inspired by Pascal.

“Hello, world!” in Ada
A common example of a language’s syntax is the Hello world program:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO;
procedure Hello is
  Put_Line ("Hello, world!");
end Hello;
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