Introduction to Java

By Author – Rashmita Soge


Java is a programming language created by James Gosling from Sun Microsystems (Sun) in 1991. The target of Java is to write a program once and then run this program on multiple operating systems. The first publicly available version of Java (Java 1.0) was released in 1995. Sun Microsystems was acquired by the Oracle Corporation in 2010. Oracle has now the steermanship for Java. In 2006 Sun started to make Java available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Oracle continues this project called OpenJDK. Over time new enhanced versions of Java have been released. The current version of Java is Java 1.8 which is also known as Java 8.

Java is defined by a specification and consists of a programming language, a compiler, core libraries and a runtime (Java virtual machine) The Java runtime allows software developers to write program code in other languages than the Java programming language which still runs on the Java virtual machine. The Java platform is usually associated with the Java virtual machine and the Java core libraries.

What is java?

Java is a General Purpose, class-based, object-oriented, Platform independent, portable, Architecturally neutral, multithreaded, dynamic, distributed, Portable and robust interpreted Programming Language.

It is intended to let application developers “write once, run anywhere” meaning that compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for

History of Java

Java is the brainchild of Java pioneer James Gosling, who traces Javas core idea of, Write Once, Run Anywhere back to work he did in graduate school.

After spending time at IBM, Gosling joined Sun Microsystems in 1984. In 1991, Gosling partnered with Sun colleagues, Michael Sheridan and Patrick Naughton on Project Green, to develop new technology for programming next-generation smart appliances. Gosling, Naughton, and Sheridan set out to develop the project based on certain rules. They were specifically tied to performance, security, and functionality. Those rules were that Java must be:

  1. Secure and robust
  2. High performance
  3. Portable and architecture-neutral, which means it can run on any combination of software and hardware
  4. Threaded, interpreted, and dynamic
  5. Object-oriented

Over time, the team added features and refinements that extended the heirloom of C++ and C, resulting in a new language called Oak, named after a tree outside Goslings office.

After efforts to use Oak for interactive television failed to materialize, the technology was re-targeted for the world wide web. The team also began working on a web browser as a demonstration platform.

Because of a trademark conflict, Oak was renamed, Java, and in 1995, Java 1.0a2, along with the browser, name HotJava, was released. The Java language was designed with the following properties:

  • Platform independent: Java programs use the Java virtual machine as abstraction and do not access the operating system directly. This makes Java programs highly portable. A Java program (which is standard-compliant and follows certain rules) can run unmodified on all supported platforms, e.g., Windows or Linux.
  • Object-orientated programming language: Except the primitive data types, all elements in Java are objects.
  • Strongly-typed programming language: Java is strongly-typed, e.g., the types of the used variables must be pre-defined and conversion to other objects is relatively strict, e.g., must be done in most cases by the programmer.
  • Interpreted and compiled language: Java source code is transferred into the bytecode format which does not depend on the target platform. These bytecode instructions will be interpreted by the Java Virtual machine (JVM). The JVM contains a so-called Hotspot-Compiler which translates performance critical bytecode instructions into native code instructions.
  • Automatic memory management: Java manages the memory allocation and de-allocation for creating new objects. The program does not have direct access to the memory. The so-called garbage collector automatically deletes objects to which no active pointer exists.

How Java Works?

To understand the primary advantage of Java, you’ll have to learn about platforms. In most programming languages, a compiler generates code that can execute on a specific target machine. For example, if you compile a C++ program on a Windows machine, the executable file can be copied to any other machine but it will only run on other Windows machines but never another machine. A platform is determined by the target machine along with its operating system. For earlier languages, language designers needed to create a specialized version of the compiler for every platform. If you wrote a program that you wanted to make available on multiple platforms, you, as the programmer, would have to do quite a bit of additional work.? You would have to create multiple versions of your source code for each platform.

Java succeeded in eliminating the platform issue for high-level programmers because it has reorganized the compile-link-execute sequence at an underlying level of the compiler. Details are complicated but, essentially, the designers of the Java language isolated those programming issues which are dependent on the platform and developed low-level means to abstractly refer to these issues. Consequently, the Java compiler doesn’t create an object file, but instead it creates a bytecode file which is, essentially, an object file for a virtual machine.? In fact, the Java compiler is often called the JVM compiler. To summarize how Java works, think about the compile-link-execute cycle. In earlier programming languages, the cycle is more closely defined as “compile-link then execute”. In Java, the cycle is closer to “compile then link-execute”.

Future of Java

Java is not a legacy programming language, despite its long history. The robust use of Maven, the building tool for Java-based projects, debunks the theory that Java is outdated. Although there are a variety of deployment tools on the market, Apache Maven has by far been one of the largest automation tools developers use to deploy software applications.

With Oracles commitment to Java for the long haul, its not hard to see why Java will always be a part of programming languages for years to come and will remain as the chosen programming language. 2017 will see the release of the eighth version of Java-Java EE 8.

Despite its areas for improvement, and threat from rival programming languages like.NET, Java is here to stay. Oracle has plans for a new version release in the early part of 2017, with new supportive features that will strongly appeal to developers. Javas multitude of strengths as a programming language means its use in the digital world will only solidify. A language that was inherently designed for easy use has proved itself as functional and secure over the course of more than two decades. Developers who appreciate technological changes can also rest assured the tried-and-true language of Java will likely always have a significant place in their toolset.