Avionics software: where are we?
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Since the digital computer first flew in an avionics system 25 years ago, the art has progressed from small, very slow vacuum tube machines with limited memory to fast chip-based machines that not only do sensor processing but also integrate a variety of data sources into many capabilities--among others, navigation, sophisticated weapons delivery, and programmed menu-displays to the air crew. As on-board computer hardware has proliferated, software inescapably has also. From a few hundred program words at the beginning, flight software is now commonly many tens-of-thousands of words; frequently, a few hundred thousands; and in some cases, even a million. Thus, implementation and management of software resources has become a major problem area for the military services. The paper explores dimensions of the issue as it now exists, suggests many positive actions under way, and proposes a direction in which the future may well move. It concludes that software will continue to be troublesome; progress will come slowly.
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