Re: Ada GC (was about Java VM) (Robert Dewar)
29 Jan 1996 23:23:15 -0500

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From: (Robert Dewar)
Date: 29 Jan 1996 23:23:15 -0500
Organization: Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
References: 96-01-037 96-01-085 96-01-097 96-01-100
Keywords: translator, C++, Ada

"However, the single most important reason why Java is a _much_ better
language than Ada-95 is the fact that Java does garbage collection and
Ada does not. Twice now, the Ada language people have gone AWOL
(absent without leave -- i.e., deserted) on the GC issue, and for no
technically supportable reasons. Their cowardice under (friendly!)
fire leaves them no moral high ground to claim any kind of superiority
over even Basic or Lotus 123, much less Java."

Henry's note included a lot of his usual uninformed rhetoric, but the
above paragraph is just plain nonsense.

Garbage collection is a technique for automatic storage management
that is pretty much language independent. It is a good idea for some
environments, and not for others. In particular, embedded applications
and hard real-time applications prefer to stay away from garbage

In the case of Ada, it is certainly possible to implement GC in an Ada
95 environment, and indeed the Ada compiler from Intermetrics that is
based on JBC technology does full garbage collection.

Requiring garbage collection at the formal semantic level is actually
a little tricky, even if it is considered desirable. Indeed we
discussed the question of requiring such technology, rather than
leaving it optional as in Ada 95, and a very concious decision was
made that it was a bad idea to require it.

I guess one person's cowardice is another persons considered technical
judgment. Many of these things are a matter of technical taste, and I
fear that I am not entirely happey with Mr. Baker's technical taste on
many things. Also I am a little reluctant to accept as an expert on
such things someone who, by his own admission, knows Ada so poorly
that he has trouble writing correct Ada programs!

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