Ten Years of Java


This is my tribute to Java (appeared in July 22, 2005 Financial Express Look at IT Column)

The year 1995 is special to technology industry – that was the year that saw the arrival of Netscape (that changed the face of the Internet), e-Bay (that brought e-commerce to prime time), USB port (that uncluttered the many connectors and device drivers that connect peripherals to PCs), Windows 95 (that created history in the launch of any product), Sony Playstation (that redefined computer games) and of course Java (that brought object oriented programming to mainstream computing). It was on March 23, 1995, Java saw the first public appearance in the Sun World conference. Java has come a long way, much beyond even what James Gosling, the visionary individual, generally considered to be the “father” of Java programming language, could have visualized ten years back.

Interestingly Java started as Project Oak in 1991; its original intent was to be a development environment for programming a whole range of devices – interactive TV, auto PC and telephone. Interestingly its first attempt as an interactive TV vendor, namely, FirstPerson was a failure; but its “Write once, Run anywhere” was a powerful metaphor. JVM (Java Virtual Machine) was another powerful abstraction that gave teeth to the metaphor of “Write once, Run anywhere”. The notion of byte-code enabled cross platform development with security. The clean syntax (yet not too different from c, c++), few unsafe constructs, and built-in garbage collection provided an environment for secure, robust and portable application development for a distributed computing paradigm of the Internet and endeared Java to the developer community.

The explosive growth of the Internet provided an opportunity of creating “dynamic” web-pages beyond static HTML through “applet” and “JavaScript” in 1996. Java entered the world of smart devices thru JavaCard in 1996 and J2ME (Java 2 Microelectronics Edition) in 1998; Java had phenomenal success in the enterprise segment through its server edition of Java, namely, J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), starting as JavaBeans and EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) in 1997 and J2EE 1.3 in 1999 and v1.4 in 2002. JFC (Java Foundation Class) was launched in 1997, Jini Technology and JSP (Java Server Pages) came in 1999; Java Programming Language was re-launched as J2SE (Java 2 Standard Edition) in 1999 and finally Java 5.0 in 2004; all representing the many stages of Java evolution over the decade.

Today Java has more than four million developers globally and Sun Microsystems estimates that there are 500 Million desktop/laptop devices, 600 Million mobile phones and 700 Million smart cards that run Java, phenomenal success for a language that is just ten years old.

Java started as a project within Sun Microsystems that pioneered the idea of “network is the computer”. However all through Java was nurtured as a multi-vendor technology through the creation of JavaSoft, an independent organization. This led to significant contribution to Java technology from other leaders that include IBM and BEA and the entire Open Source community, notably, JBoss. Though Microsoft tried hard to stop the growth of Java through its .Net initiative and the c# programming language, the development community perceived Java as multi-vendor solution and .Net as single vendor solution; with the wave of Open Source moving all over today, Java (particularly J2EE) and .Net are considered two mature alternative technologies that will stay (like Petrol & Diesel as alternative fuels in the automotive space).

An interesting part of Java evolution in 1998 is JCP (Java Community Process) that brings multiple groups to control the destiny of the evolution of Java. Though it slows down the process a little bit, JCP is able to incorporate the wisdom of multiple vendors; there is agreement on standards, yet they concede to vendor-specific implementation.

With so much happening there is a lot written about Java. There are thousands of books written on Java technology, targeted at “idiots” to “geniuses” and “beginners” to “advanced” users in areas as wide as Java Programming Language to Performance Tuning of EJBs. “Just Java” by Peter Linden, “Thinking in Java” by Bruce Eckel, “Java – How to Program” by Deitel and our own “Let us Java” by Yashwant Kanetkar are my recommendations.

In addition to Sun site, Jave.net , Java.com & Java World sites, and Java Magazine contain wealth of information. There are Java events all around the year.

Are you ready for a Java break?

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