Code Fathers Talk Programming Futures

The fathers of Sun's Java and Microsoft's C# languages are both investigating a number of similar areas-including how to harness the power of XML data-in search of "the next big thing."

Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. officials are sharing more and more these days, from ID management specs, to racks of servers, to keynote appearances at trade shows.

That doesnt mean the two have ceased competing, however. And nowhere is that competition more evident than on the programming-language front.

Suns Java and Microsofts C# are still going head-to-head. And the "fathers" of the languages—Suns James Gosling and Microsofts Anders Hejlsberg—are laser-focused on building out their respective platforms.

In June, eWEEK and Microsoft Watch had a chance to pick the brains of Gosling and Hejlsberg on the past, present and future of their products.

Hejlsberg is one of a handful of Microsofts distinguished engineers. He developed the Borland Turbo Pascal compiler and was the chief architect of Borlands Delphi technology. Hejlsberg left Borland, where he last served as chief engineer, to join Microsoft in 1996. Since joining Microsoft, Hejlsbergs greatest claim to fame has been fathering the C# programming language. Originally code-named Cool, C# was designed to be Microsofts Java killer.

Gosling is the creator of Java as well as a Sun Fellow and chief technology officer of Suns Developer Products group. He developed a multiprocessor version of Unix, several compilers, mail systems and window managers. He has also built a WYSIWYG text editor, a constraint-based drawing editor and the Emacs text editor for Unix.

Neither Gosling nor Hejlsberg has become a figurehead, content to collect accolades for their many past programming achievements. Both are actively engaged in guiding the future of their respective companies development tools. And, not too surprisingly, both are investigating a number of similar areas in search of "the next big thing."

One of the primary areas of investigative overlap is how best to harness the power of XML data.


"Direct language support for XML has been a debate for some time," Gosling told eWEEK. "All these things at an abstract level kind of sound like the thing to do. When it comes down to the details, one of the problems ends up being that using Java today, you actually get pretty good access to XML. And really what it would end up being is sort of syntactic sugar that makes certain constructions simpler, but can you come up with something that actually makes peoples life better by enough that its worth adding that baggage?"

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read the full interview with Gosling.


Hejlsberg, for his part, is also deeply interested in how to get at XML data using existing .Net-based programming languages.

"My particular interest for the past couple of years has been to really think deeply about the big impedance mismatch we have between programming languages, C# in particular, and the database world, like SQL—or, for that matter, the XML world, like XQuery and those languages that exist there," Hejlsberg said during an interview with Microsoft Watch.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read the full interview with Hejlsberg.

Hejlsberg and his team are expected to make a major announcement in this space at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in mid-September. According to a list of PDC sessions posted to Microsofts Web site, Microsoft is expected to announce what its calling the ".Net Language Integrated Query Framework" at the show. Its not clear yet how that framework will be packaged with C# 3.0, which is the next major version of the language Hejlsberg invented. But the framework will likely go a long way toward lessening the disconnect between the types of queries that database developers are writing and those that programmers are constructing.

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