James Gosling, often referred to as the father of Java, has left Sun. He is not the first prominent figure at Sun who has decided they will not (or cannot) continue at Sun, which is now owned by Oracle.
His departure signals the end of an era. He is central to many fond memories of the Java story: when it was just starting out, when it changed the world, when the Internet was new and exciting. Gosling, one generation older than the majority of Java developers, with his grey beard and thinning hair, served as a father figure to the Java community.
But did he really contribute anything substantial in the last ten years? At the JavaOne conference his role was that of sympathetic electrician who, with his worn out jeans and his fondness for “-ers” in his speeches, demonstrated a refreshing disregard for formalities.
In his keynote address at the W-JAX 2004 conference, he focused on himself: his biography, amusing anecdotes, funny pictures from the time when “it all began.” He had little to say on the issues currently rocking the Java world. In an interview we conducted in 2004, he dismissed the possibility of Java one day running under an open source license. He presumed it would be impossible to open source Java, and maintain its quality assurance and stability. Two years later, Java was open sourced – and lost none of the quality and stability, as Gosling had predicted.
To mark the tenth anniversary of Java Magazin, we published a fun video in which James tries to read the German-language Java Magazin – he was always available for such stunts. In many of his public statements however, we mainly saw him as a marketing tool, announcing new developments and products at Sun.
James Gosling, who not only created Java, but also developed Emacs, which was for decades considered a ground breaking tool, is certainly a gifted engineer and a creative mind, but in his last years at Sun he most likely had few outlets for his talents. It is unfortunate that he is leaving the company now: it would have been better for him to leave half a decade earlier.
Goodbye James, the Java community will miss you!