Java – Man, Not Again

Java - Man! Not again - it's a little too much to take in a lifetime of that thing.

You are reading this article on the web, and that makes me confident that you are aware of this word, which suddenly from being in a state of "some word" in the dictionary became the buzzword of the IT industry in the last 4-5 years.

Come with me on a short ride to where it all started and what it is all about. It is not only for the tech-savvy software engineers and the "Geeks", as the common parlance is for these folks who put in everything they have to get it out in the best form: A solution for a system that is robust, platform independent, optimized for high-performance and yet, simple with little or least maintenance.

Patrick Naughton along with James Gosling and a group of engineers at Sun Microsystems, Inc. were interested in designing a small computer language that could be used for consumer devices like cable TV switchboxes. Given the lack of memory capacity and also as these devices as short on power, the language needed to be very small and generate very very tight code. To accommodate different Central Processing Units (CPUs), they knew they could not tie themselves down to any single architecture. The project got the code name "green".

The requirement for small, tight code led the team to resurrect the model that a language, called UCSD Pascal, tried in the early days of PCs and that Niklaus Wirth had pioneered earlier. The idea was to design a portable language that generated intermediate code for hypothetical machine (often called virtual machines). These could then be used on any machine that had the correct interpreter. Since both the code and its interpreter could be really small, the main issue of size was solved.

Sun and its people are from Unix background, hence they based their language on C++ rather than Pascal. So for common parlance, the idea was to make it object-oriented and not procedure-oriented. Gosling (presumably loving the way the Oak tree outside his window looked at Sun) named his language "Oak". For him: "All along, the language was a tool, and not the end".

"*7", was the result and outcome of the efforts of the team and it came out in 1992. This was an extremely intelligent remote control. (Had the power of a SPARCstation in a box that was 6" by 4" by 4"). Unfortunately no one was interested in producing this at Sun and from here started the first battle to sell the technology out to someone. The Green Project (now christened as "First Person, Inc.") spent all of 1993 and a quite a fair amount of 1994 to look for a customer ready to buy the technology. Patrick Naughton had accumulated 300,000 miles trying to market and sell the technology. First Person was dissolved in 1994.

While all of this was on at SMI, Internet was getting bigger, bigger and bigger. Suddenly the man called Marc Andreessen, an undergraduate student on a work-project at University of Illinois, working for $6.85 an hour came into worldwide existence. "Mosaic" - partially written by him, was the most commonly used web-browser. 

The language developers at SMI realized that they could come up with a real cool browser and so they did. Naughton and Jonathan Payne built the actual browser and it evolved into HotJava Browser. It was written in Java to show off it's capabilities and the power of what we now refer to as "applets": to do so, the browser was capable of interpreting the intermediate bytecodes. This "proof of technology" exhibited at SunWorld in 1995 (May 23, 1995), started the craze in the IT world the fan following that even Michael, Madonna or Monroe probably could not in their fields in such a short span of time.

January 1996, Netscape 2.0 was released, Java enabled. And from then on everyone followed suit. Microsoft was not to be left behind, though did not follow the general consensus, like always, and came up with their own implementation.

First version of Java was released by Sun Microsystems, in 1996 followed by 1.02 just after about a couple of months. It failed on the big screen. Java 1.02 was not ready for prime time yet. It became clear in JavaOne conference that year what Sun really had in mind for Java and also came out with a clear vision for future.

It took almost two years from then on to get it out to perform and deliver what they had started it out for, "write once, run anywhere". Release of Java 1.2 in 1998 JavaOne conference was the biggest news. It was amazing, though people were still skeptical, how in such a short a span of time much had been incorporated, from an early toy-like GUI and graphics toolkits it had been developed into sophisticated and scalable versions. Like it is always said: the more your brew, the better and stronger it gets. Java, had finally arrived!    


More by :  Neeraj Mathur

Top | Computing

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