Java – This Is Your Life (So Far)
It’s 21 years since Sun Microsystems, Inc. started to develop Java technology. We take a walk down memory lane.
On this day 21 years ago, Mike Sheridan, James Gosling and
Patrick Naughton of Sun Microsystems Inc. started to develop
Java technology out of a project for embedded control
called *7 (Star Seven). Little did they know that more than two
decades on in 2012, Java would grow to what it is today.
From humble beginnings to widespread permeation of
technology, here’s our retrospective, chronicling some of the
landmark moments in Java’s history (good and bad) as Java comes of
age. Java, this is your life so far…
1991 – Genesis
A team of three Sun Microsystems developers, dubbed ‘The Stealth
Team’ then ‘The Green Team’, envisioned the next wave of technology
in computing, extending it to everyday devices.
James Gosling, Mike Sheridan and Patrick
Naughton initiated the Java language project in June
1991. As some may know, Java was originally called Oak, then
Green before finally settling on the coffee moniker, due to the
excess quantities drank by the team and a trademark search meant
Oak was unusable.
1992-1994 – Wilderness
By the summer of ’92, the team managed to demonstrate portions
of their platform in action, including the
Green OS, the Oak
language, the libraries and the hardware. In September of that
year, they were able to show off the Star7 PDA – which had a
graphical interface and agent called Duke and it provided the first
look at the new processor-independent programming language. The
concepts are still commonly used today. Here’s an old video we
found of Mr Gosling:
The Star 7 was originally intended for interactive television
(TimeWarner registered interest in a set-top box) but due to it
being so advanced at the time, nothing came to fruition. Then the
company rolled back into Sun.
1993 saw Sun’s Green Project becoming First Person, a wholly
owned subsidiary of Sun Microsystems. This refocusing effort
eventually saw the group minify back in to Sun where the engineers
changed their focus to online services.
In 1994, the team had a glimpse into the future by creating the
first browser that supported moving objects; engineers Patrick
Naughtion and Jonathan Payne used the Oak programming language to
write WebRunner, which was later renamed HotJava.
1995 – Hello Internet
Following re-evaluation the previous year to target Java to the
World Wide Web, the first public version of Java arrived.
Java 1.0a2 complete with the HotJava browser appeared on May
23, 1995, announced by Gage at the SunWorld conference.
This was twinned with a surprising announcement that Java would be
implemented in the NetScape browser.
1996 – The JavaSoft Group is formed to develop Java
We saw the very first JDK arrive on the 23rd January 1996,
codenamed Oak. 1996 was also the year that held the very first
JavaOne Developer Conference. With over 6000 attendees, Java was
officially in the limelight.
1997 – JavaBeans
The first major update to the stable version arrived, bringing
it with it a raft of changes, including an extensive retooling
of the AWT event
classes added to the language and of course JavaBeans.
1998 – King of the Playground
The sequel arrived. From here on in Java 2 ruled the roost.
Bigger, faster, stronger. Sort of. We saw the advent of Swing, a
JVM and a JIT compiler. At the JavaOne conference the JavaRing was
the centre of attention; a mobile security device and data carrier
disguised as a fashion accessory. It
supported multiple Java applets which could accomplish
day to day tasks from starting a car to logging on to your PC. It
provided an innovative and personal demonstration of the power of
1999 – It’s all about the architecture
The big announcement came that Sun were redefining the
architecture for the Java platform. As a result capitalising on the
Java Platform became easier for developers, providers and
manufacturers to target specific markets. Java 2 Standard Edition
(J2SE) was introduced for desktop and workstation devices while the
Enterprise Edition (J2EE) became available for heavy-duty server
2000 – Kestrel calling, Apple knocking
By the time 2000 came around, the products leveraging Java
technology were vast and the next version was introduced: the
Hotspot JVM. It started the beginning of the Java ecosystem as we
know it. Apple co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs told the
world that it had been decided that that Apple would bundle J2SE
with every version of the Mac OS X operating system.
2001 – Community love
The J2SE (JCP) took shape, which then helped define the new
version of JSEE.
2002 – Merlin
Merlin was the first release of the Java platform under the Java
Community Process as JSR 59. It was the first time that JCP allowed
its users to actively participate in deciding the features and the
direction that Java should take.
2003 – Java Card
Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy demonstrated the advantages
of the Java Card, showing how it enables the user to access a
computing session securely from a remote server.
2004 – To open source or not to open source
J2SE 1.5, code-named Tiger, saw many new and extended features.
It was the most important revision of the language since its
origination. New weighty language features included Generics,
Metadata, Autoboxing, Enumerations and Varargs.
The big debate began about whether or not Java should be open
sourced. Advocates believed that it would seek a freer path for
Java instead of being held back by the Java specifications and
2005 – Happy birthday
After 10 successful years, Java is still on a high and is the
number one programming language.
2006 – Mustang
Sun replaced the name J2SE with Java SE. Java SE is a platform
that focuses on compatibility and stability alongside many other
new features from console 1/O to partition-space methods. In
February and June 2006, the first beta versions became
After much debate, Java was released to open source development
and became available under the GNU General Public License.
2007 – Hello JavaFX
JavaFX became the new family member of Java technology based
products, designed to make it easier to build websites and
applications across a broad range of devices.
2008 – Blu-Ray
Neil Young was the first artist to release his
musical archives on Blu-ray disc, powered by Java technology.
Java successfully powered the navigation of all the blu-ray
2009 – The era of Oracle begins
In 2009, the aquisition of Sun by Oracle was announced, much to
the dismay of many user groups.
2010 – The changes
James Gosling decided to leave Oracle, and it was said that he
had very little input in the development of JDK 7. Changes were
made and the JSRs for the next two releases of the Java platform
were approved. The Java standard progressed through JCP while the
open source reference implementation was delivered through the
2011 – Dolphine
The Java Platform Standard Edition 7 (its formal name) was the
first big release in almost 5 years. It was also the first under
Oracle’s stewardship. It offers advancement in running dynamic
languages, programming and file systems. However, it has come under
fire, with many of the original features in the JDK 7 plan having
been pushed in to the future JDK 8.
The Java Community Process held an election to fill the vacant
seats on the Java SE/EE Executive Committee.
2012 and Beyond
So what can possibly happen in 2012? Well, there is a lot in
store for Java; lawsuits continue, development of Java 8 is
expected and we welcome the explosion of Big Data and Hadoop.