A striking example of this phenomenon has recently been provided by Ada. If Ada is going to provide a standard, that standard had better be unambiguously documented. At least two groups have had a go at it; both efforts resulted in formal texts of about 600 pages, i.e. many times longer than needed to ensure the impossibility of ever establishing firmly that the two documents define the same programming language. The fault of the patent unmanageability of these two documents lies neither with the two groups that composed them, nor with the formalisms they have adopted, but entirely with the language itself: only by not providing a formal definition themselves, could its designers hide that they were proposing an unmanageable monstrum. That Ada will decrease the pain of programming and increase the trustworthiness of our designs to within acceptable limits is one of those fictions for which a military education is needed in order to believe in it.

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