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History of Java
At first glance, it may appear that Java was developed specifically for the world wide web. However, interestingly enough, Java was developed independently of the web, and went through several stages of metamorphosis before reaching its current status of de facto programming language for the world wide web. Below is a brief history of Java since its infancy to its current state.
According the Java FAQ, Bill Joy, currently a vice president at Sun Microsystems, is widely believed to have been the person to conceive of the idea of a programming language that later became Java. In late 1970's, Joy wanted to design a language that combined the best features of MESA and C. In an attempt to re-write the UNIX operating system in 1980's, Joy decided that C++ was inadequate for the job. A better tool was needed to write short and effective programs. It was this desire to invent a better programming tool that swayed Joy, in 1991, in the direction of Sun's "Stealth Project" - as named by Scott McNealy, Sun's president. In January of 1991, Bill Joy, James Gosling, Mike Sheradin, Patrick Naughton (formerly the project leader of Sun's OpenWindows user environment), and several other individuals met in Aspen, Colorado for the first time to discuss the ideas for the Stealth Project. The goal of the Stealth Project was to do research in the area of application of computers in the consumer electronics market. The vision of the project was to develop "smart" consumer electronic devices that could all be centrally controlled and programmed from a handheld-remote-control-like device. According to Gosling, "the goal was ... to build a system that would let us do a large, distributed, heterogeneous network of consumer electronic devices all talking to each other." With this goal in mind, the stealth group began work.
Members of the Stealth Project, which later became known as the Green Project, divided the tasks amongst themselves. Mike Sheradin was to focus on business development, Patrick Naughton was to begin work on the graphics system, and James Gosling was to identify the proper programming language for the project. Gosling who had joined Sun in 1984, had previously developed the commercially unsuccessful NeWS windowing system as well as GOSMACS - a C language implementation of GNU EMACS. He began with C++, but soon after was convinced that C++ was inadequate for this particular project. His extensions and modifications to C++ (also know as C++ ++ --), were the first steps towards the development of an independent language that would fit the project objectives. He named the language "Oak" while staring at an oak tree outside his office window! The name "Oak" was later dismissed due to a patent search which determined that the name was copyrighted and used for another programming language. According to Gosling, "the Java development team discovered that Oak was the name of a programming language that predated Sun's language, so another name had to be chosen."
"It's surprisingly difficult to find a good name for a programming language, as the team discovered after many hours of brainstorming. Finally, inspiration struck one day during a trip to the local coffee shop" Gosling recalls. Others have speculated that the name Java came from several individuals involved in the project: James gosling, Arthur Van hoff, Andy bechtolsheim.
There were several criteria that Oak had to meet in order to satisfy the project objective given the consumer electronics target market. Given the wide array of manufacturers in the market, Oak would have to be completely platform independent, and function seamlessly regardless of the type of CPU in the device. For this reason, Oak was designed to be an interpreted language, since it would be practically impossible for a complied version to run on all available platforms. To facilitate the job of the interpreter, Oak was to be converted to an intermediate "byte-code" format which is then passed around across the network, and executed/interpreted dynamically.
Additionally, reliability was of great concern. A consumer electronics device that would have to be "rebooted" periodically was not acceptable. Another important design objective for Oak would then have to be high reliability by allowing the least amount of programmer-introduced errors. This was the motivation for several important modification to C++. The concepts of multiple-inheritance and operator overloading were identified as sources of potential errors, and eliminated in Oak. Furthermore, in contrast to C++, Oak included implicit garbage collection thereby providing efficient memory utilization and higher reliability. Finally, Oak attempted to eliminate all unsafe constructs used in C and C++ by only providing data structures within objects.
Another essential design criterion was security. By design, Oak-based devices were to function in a network and often exchange code and information. Inherently, security is of great concern in a networked environment, especially in an environment as network dependent as the conceived Oak-based systems. For this reason, pointers were excluded in the design of Oak. This would theoretically eliminate the possibility of malicious programs accessing arbitrary addresses in memory.
If Oak were to be widely accepted and used within the consumer electronics industry, it would have to be simple and compact, so that the language could be mastered relatively easily, and development would not be excessively complex. Some would argue that Oak/Java is C++ done right, but the jury is still out on that...
In April of 1991, Ed Frank, a SPARCstation 10 architect, joined the green project. He led the project's hardware development effort. In two months, they developed the first hardware prototype known as star-seven (*7). The name *7 was somewhat demonstrative of the project's objective. *7 was the key combination to press on any telephone to answer any other ringing telephone on their network. In the meantime, Gosling was beginning work on the Oak interpreter. By August of 1991, the team had a working prototype of the user interface and graphical system which was demonstrated to Sun's co-founders Scott McNealy and Bill Joy.