The Life and Times of Java and James Gosling

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The Life and Times of Java and James Gosling

by Darryl K. Taft

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Dr. Gosling Is in the House

Equipped with a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon's famed Computer Science program and experience in the industry building tools and systems for developers, James Gosling launched a project to deliver a platform that would enable programmers to write an application once and run it anywhere. Java applications are typically compiled to bytecode that can run on any JVM (Java virtual machine) regardless of computer architecture.

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Java Changes the Landscape

The promise of "Write once, run anywhere" set the IT world abuzz. Java's portability became its primary selling point. Sun's promotion of and potential success with Java prompted Microsoft to launch a similar effort with C# and the CLR (Common Language Runtime), influencing Microsoft's development platform for years to come.

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Microsoft Tries to Undermine Java

Gosling's Java invention scared the heck out of Microsoft, which quickly moved to address the threat. This action became a key point in the U.S. government's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. The Department of Justice claimed that Microsoft illegally used its Windows monopoly to try to kill Java in the marketplace. The circuit court judge in the case, Thomas Penfield Jackson, found that Microsoft indeed tried to prevent Java from diminishing the "applications barrier to entry" in the market and challenging Windows' dominance. The court found that by building a JVM with proprietary extensions Microsoft was able to hamper Java.

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Java Made Money for Sun

Don't let it be said Sun never made money off of Java, while IBM, Oracle and others have. Sun certainly made money from Java. In the aftermath of the government's Microsoft litigation, Sun got a $20 million settlement from Microsoft after filing suit in 1997 over issues pertaining to Microsoft's JVM and implementation of the Java language, J++.

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Java Gives Rise to Rich Tool Array

Gosling's effort led to the development of rich tools environments, including the open-source Eclipse tools, NetBeans, JDeveloper and JetBrains' IntelliJ IDEA.

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Java Spawns Thriving Enterprise IT Platform, Java EE

Java EE (Java Platform, Enterprise Edition) is a widely used platform for server programming in Java. Java EE differs from Java SE (Standard Edition) in that it adds libraries that provide functionality to deploy fault-tolerant, distributed, multitier Java software, based largely on modular components running on an application server. IBM, Oracle, JBoss and others compete in the lucrative enterprise Java space.

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IT All-Stars License Java

A diverse set of companies use Java and license the technology from Oracle. Java licensees include IBM, JBoss, Google, Facebook, eBay,, mobile and wireless companies such as Nokia, Research In Motion and Samsung, and a host of others.

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Java Tops Ranks of Most Popular Programming Languages

According to the TIOBE Programming Community index, Java has topped the most popular programming languages list for the last four years. However, in April the C language moved into the No. 1 slot.

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Developer Community Hits 6 Million and Counting

There are more than 6.5 million Java developers throughout the world, according to numbers provided by Sun/Oracle.

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Ticker Tape

Java gave Sun a corporate identity, which later became the company's stock ticker symbol: JAVA replaced SUNW.

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Goslings Vigilance Helps Keep Java Pure

Sun and Gosling maintained a stance that any implementation of Java needed to pass a compatibility test. The JCP (Java Community Process) became the watchdog for compatibility. And Sun issued kits to test compatibility. A TCK (Technology Compatibility Kit) is a suite of tests, tools and documentation that provides a standard way of testing an implementation for compliance with a Java technology specification. It is one of the three major deliverables, along with a specification and reference implementation, required by the JCP for the final release of a Java technology.

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The Stats Tell the Story

Java is the most-taught computer programming language in colleges and universities, according to Sun/Oracle. In addition, the JRE (Java Runtime Environment) is downloaded 15 million times a week, and there are 10 billion Java-enabled devices, 1 billion Java-enabled desktops, 100 million Java-enabled TV devices, 2.6 billion Java-enabled mobile devices and 5.5 billion Java smart cards.

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Where Will Gosling Land? IBM?

This could work. It is a possibility, but somewhat remote. At IBM, Gosling could work on the next great programming language or perhaps join forces with Grady Booch, chief scientist for software engineering for IBM Research and co-creator of the UML (Unified Modeling Language). But Gosling has worked at IBM before.

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Google Free Thinkers Beckon

Google seems like a safe bet as a place where Gosling could take his skills given the number of topnotch free thinkers the company has on board. He could possibly get involved with the Google "Go" language effort. But he'd be more likely to wind up on some cloud effort as an overseer on the Google "plantation," as former Sun staffer and current Google employee Tim Bray called Google's AppEngine.

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Go to Work for Javas Greatest Antagonist—Microsoft

This would not be the first time this match-up has been suggested. While possibly one of the best opportunities to equal or surpass Gosling's success in impacting the industry with Java—like a coach taking two different teams to the Super Bowl or Final Four and winning—this is still a long shot. However, the combination of Gosling and Anders Hejlsberg, the father of the modern IDE (integrated development environment), could be quite compelling on the language front. Not to mention that there are opportunities to work on projects like the Windows Azure cloud or the next-generation "Midori" operating system project.

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Take Part in a New Startup Venture

This would depend on the idea, the development team and the prospects for breaking new technological ground. But this is certainly a possibility.

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Retire to Academia

Gosling would be welcome in the classroom at any university. Can you imagine how much enrollment in the computer science department would rise in any school that signed Gosling on as an instructor?

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Join Another Major Java Player

Rather than the big three of IBM, Microsoft and Google, might we see Gosling at Red Hat/JBoss, SpringSource or VMware? How about Apple?

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Work as a Senior Government Adviser or Researcher

With all the Department of Defense, NSA, DARPA and other "black" agencies Gosling has advised about Java, he's certainly got top-level clearance to work in some of the most sensitive areas of the government on systems pertaining to national security.

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Apache Harmony Project?

Maybe Gosling might like to join the Apache Harmony project. Apache Harmony is the Java SE project of the Apache Software Foundation. The aim of the project is to produce a large and healthy community of those interested in runtime platforms who would take on the task of building a compatible, independent implementation of the Java SE 5 JDK under the Apache License v2, and a community-developed modular runtime (VM and class library) architecture. The chances of Gosling joining Harmony are slim to none, but you never know.

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