Jean Ichbiah, French inventor of the programming language Ada, died Jan. 26, aged 66. He had suffered from a brain cancer.
Ada, created at the end of the 1970s, was the first object-oriented language to become an international standard, in 1995. It is still widely used today, mainly for real-time systems in the aeronautical industry (the code is embedded in the Rafale and Mirage 2000 fighters, and in the Boeing 777 airliner) and in transport systems: Line 14 of the Paris metro system, known as Meteor, uses Ada for its driverless control system and for the automatic opening and closing of doors.
The language is also present in space, in the satellite Helios II and in the International Space Station. And of its 80,000 lines of code, the Ariane rocket includes "a few lines of assembler and more than 99 percent Ada," the magazine Le Monde Informatique wrote in a feature on the language in 2002.
Ada is widely taught in France -- its rigorous nature considered educational.
Although Ada was conceived at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense, it was born in France, at Honeywell-CII-Bull. The French national IT champion won the bidding for the DOD contract in 1976, and put Ichbiah in charge of the project team.
"He was the real architect of the language, who knew how to motivate and bring together many talents," Etienne Morel, a member of the legendary Language Design Team, said in 2002, when he was director-general of Rational France.
The language was baptized Ada in reference to the woman who wrote the first embryonic computer program: Lady Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron and friend of the English mathematician Charles Babbage, the 19th-century inventor of the Analytical Engine, a mechanical calculator.
Ichbiah left Honeywell-CII-Bull in 1980 to set up Alsys (Ada Language Systems). After selling that company to Thomson in 1991, he left for the U.S. to set up Textware Solutions, a vendor of rapid text entry systems.