Just as C++ was becoming the language of choice for building industrial-strength
applications, another growth spurt in the evolution of programming language was
budding, fertilized by the latest disruptive technology—the World Wide Web. The
Internet had been a well-kept secret for decades before the National Science Foundation
(who oversaw the Internet) removed barriers that prevented commercialization. Until 1991
when it was opened to commerce, the Internet was the almost exclusive domain of
government agencies and the academic community. Once the barrier to commercialization
was lifted, the World Wide Web—one of several services offered on the Internet—
became a virtual community center where visitors could get free information about
practically anything and browse through thousands of virtual stores.
Browsers power the World Wide Web. A browser translates ASCII text files written
in HTML into an interactive display that can be interpreted on any machine. As long as
the browser is compatible with the correct version of HTML and HTTP implementation,
any computer running the browser can use the same HTML document without having
to modify it for a particular type of computer, which was something unheard of at the
time. Programs written in C or C++ are machine dependent and cannot run on a different
machine unless the program is recompiled.
The success of the Internet gave renewed focus to developing a machine-independent
programming language. And the same year the Internet was commercialized, five
technologists at Sun Microsystems set out to do just that. James Gosling, Patrick Naughton,
Chris Warth, Ed Frank, and Mike Sheridan spent 18 months developing the programming
language they called Oak, which was renamed Java when this new language made its
debut in 1995. Java went through numerous iterations between 1991 and 1995, during
which time many other technologists at Sun made substantial contributions to the
language. These included Bill Joy, Arthur van Hoff, Jonathan Payne, Frank Yelin, and
Although Java is closely associated with the Internet, it was developed as a language
for programming software that could be embedded into electronic devices regardless of
the type of CPU used by the device. This is known as the EmbeddedJava platform and
is in continuous use today for closed systems.
The Java team from Sun succeeded in creating a portable programming language,
something that had eluded programmers since computers were first programmed. Their
success, however, was far beyond their wildest dreams. The same concept used to make
Java programs portable to electronic devices also could be used to make Java programs
run on computers running Microsoft Windows, UNIX, and Macintosh.
Timing was perfect. The Internet/intranet had whetted corporate America’s appetite
for cost-effective, portable programs that could replace mission-critical applications
within the corporation. And Java had proven itself as a programming language used
to successfully develop machine-independent applications.
It was in the mid-1990s when the team from Sun realized that Java could be easily
adapted to develop software for the Internet/intranet. And toward the turn of the century,