What is Java?

Java is a general purpose software development platform that is specifically designed to be open and enable application developers to “write once, run anywhere.” The Java platform is most widely used in business software, web and mobile applications.

In 1995, Sun Microsystems released the Java programming language as a component of a broader strategy known as the Java platform. The “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) motto initially promised to make Java the everywhere language, running on everything from wrist watches to cell phones and laptops to supercomputers.

Java was primarily created by three individuals; James Gosling, Mark Sheridan and Patrick Naughton. They created Java in 1991 with the intention of using it as a tool for interactive television, but this idea did not come to fruition as Java ended up being too advanced for television. The three programmers originally called the language “oak”, named as such because of an oak tree just outside Gosling’s office. It was later renamed to “Green”, but eventually Java was the name that stuck, after being selected from a random list of potential names.

When Java was created, Gosling, Sheridan and Naughton had five primary goals. They were:

1) It should be simple, object oriented, and familiar.

2) It should be both robust and secure.

3) It should be “architecture neutral” and portable.

4) It should execute with high performance

5) It should be interpreted, threaded, and dynamic.

The first public implementation of Java (version 1.0) was released in 1995. It was highly touted due to its “write once, run anywhere” capabilities, the ability to run on popular platforms and its inherent and configurable security.

The initial reception to Java was, to put it mildly, mixed. Some immediately saw it as a game changer, a new language that would be eventually running on everything from cell phones to laptops to toasters. Yet many pundits suggested that Java would be nothing more than a footnote in the history of computers and programming. While critics and analysts were busy taking sides, Java continued to evolve. This evolution served to accumulate more baggage as Java struggled to maintain its initial “write once, run anywhere” intention.

Major web browsers soon incorporated the ability to run Java “applets” within a web-page, and Java quickly became popular. Java soon became Java 2, released initially as Java 1.2 in 1998, it now had multiple configurations built for a variety of platforms. In 2006, Sun Microsystems released much of Java as an open source software, and completed the process the following year, making Java’s entire core code available under the terms of free software/open-source distribution, save for one small part of the code for which Sun Microsystems did not hold the copyright.

One of the major characteristics of Java is its portability. This means that computer programs written in the Java language must run similarly on any supported hardware/operating-system platform. End-users commonly use a Java Runtime Environment (“JRE”) installed on their own machine for standalone Java applications, or in a Web browser for Java applets.

In 2009-2010, Sun Microsystems was acquired by the Oracle Corporation. The initial months after Oracle made the official announcement regarding the merger with Sun were full of insecurity and discussions within the Java developer communities about the future of Java. Oracle Corp’ has defined itself as the “steward of Java technology with a relentless commitment to fostering a community of participation and transparency”. In November of 2010, Oracle and Apple announced the OpenJDK project for Mac OS X. Apple will contribute most of the main components and technology required for Java SE 7 implementation on Mac OS X.

Looking ahead, Oracle will unveil JDK 7 in 2011, with JDK 8 coming a year later. Oracle has stated they are committed to delivering the best Java Virtual Machine as well as OpenJDK, the open source implementation of the Java programming language.

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