Gilad Bracha Interview

Gilad Bracha: ‘Java is becoming Cobol 2.0.’

Jessica Thornsby

JAX London may have just gone, but the next JAX conference is already on the horizon, with JAX Germany scheduled to take place in Germany in May. At JAX Germany, creator of the Newspeak programming language Gilad Bracha will deliver a sessions on Newspeak and conduct a ‘Java Post Mortem.’JAXenter caught up with Gilad Bracha to learn more about what JAX Germany attendees can expect from his sessions…..

JAXenter: In this age of emerging programming
languages on the JVM, many are wondering what will happen to good
old fashioned Java. At JAX 2010 you will talk about a Java Post Mortem. What,
in your opinion, are Java’s strengths?

Gilad Bracha: As a language, Java’s great
contribution was popularizing ideas that existed in other
languages. Chief among these was garbage collection. Java proved
that GC was ready for the mainstream. Another important feature I
would cite is interfaces. This is an idea that had been floating
around in various systems (including my own work on Strongtalk) but
had never seen widespread adoption. Finally, I’d mention
reflection. Again, this by no means new to Java; but Java made it
accessible to a huge audience.

None of these things are unique to Java anymore. At this point,
what it has going for it is mainly inertia, and being the native
language of the JVM.

JAXenter: And what are the weak points that may
lead to its demise?

Gilad Bracha: Primitive types, static state,
constructors, lack of true closures, and overall an oppressive
rigidity. The rigidity is not just technical; it impacts the
language’s evolution. The process has become too bureaucratic and
politicized. Design by committee is not the way to produce
inspiring results. To be fair, old languages never die; they just
fade away (to paraphrase MacArthur.) Java is becoming Cobol 2.0. It
will be around for a long time yet, but just not interesting or

JAXenter: One of your talks at the Java
Language Days at JAX will discuss the dynamic language Newspeak – a
language in the tradition of Self and Smalltalk that supports
modularity and security. What is Newspeak about?

Gilad Bracha: Newspeak is about having your
cake and eating it. We are out to combine the flexibility and
simplicity of reflective, dynamic languages like Smalltalk with
modularity, security and interoperability – areas where these
languages have been weak. Newspeak is also about minimalism –
covering a lot of ground with powerful, compositional design,
rather than bloat. That makes for compact, lightweight systems that
are easy to learn and easy to evolve.

JAXenter: As you write in the Newspeak blog,
justifying a new programming language is hard. So why should we
switch to Newspeak?

Gilad Bracha: The world of programming is
changing; in particular, the internet cloud is changing how
applications are done. The web browser is one the main deployment
vectors. The browser, and platforms like ChromeOS, iPhone/iPad and
Android tie applications to cloud based services. Newspeak is
designed to make it easy to program such services. I don’t expect
people to switch just yet – we still have a lot of work to do.
Right now, the main space where I’d recommend using Newspeak in
production is traditional Windows clients; but later this year I
think we’ll have push button web deployment ready. That means
writing an elegant client in a beautiful high level language, and
having it run on the browser and natively, with much less effort
than existing platforms.

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