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CompSci 101

Is Java bad for beginners? Stanford thinks so

Jane Elizabeth
Java
©Shutterstock / Charcompix

Stanford’s famous introductory course for programming has just dropped Java in favor of JavaScript. Is this a sign of the end times for our favorite programming language?

Stanford’s infamous introductory computer science course has just dropped Java in favor of JavaScript. CS 106A has served as an introduction for all potential CS students to learn the fundamentals of computer programming for over a decade. The university website notes that, “This course covers the same material as CS 106A but does so using JavaScript, the most common language for implementing interactive web pages, instead of Java.”

The Stanford Daily reports that Eric Roberts, emeritus professor of computer science and the initial creator of the CS 106 courses, has spent over five years developing this transition to JavaScript for the department. In addition to writing a new textbook, Roberts has created new course assignments and trained new teaching assistants for the new programming language.

Roberts describes Java as “showing its age”. The programming language has been a mainstay at this university for over 15 years. But now, he thinks JavaScript is the foremost programming language of the internet.

Java’s not dead

Stanford is one of the US’s premier institutions for computer science. Its close proximity to Silicon Valley means that their graduates are heavily represented in the next wave of tech. So, should Java fans be worried that this change is a warning sign for the end of Java?

Realistically? No.

People have been trying to proclaim Java’s imminent demise for years now, especially after Oracle’s takeover of Sun and Java in 2010. Predictions about its end a dime a dozen even as the language continues to grow and thrive.

Although Java was popular as an introduction language fifteen years ago, things have changed since the early 2000s. According to research from 2014, more universities teach Python as an introduction to computer science. However, Java is a close second. (MATLAB, C, and C++ are a distant third, fourth, and fifth.) Besides, even though Stanford’s introductory course is in JavaScript, most of their upper level computer science courses are in Java.

SEE MORE: Java is alive and well, thank you, and is just as relevant as ever

In all honesty, proponents of Stanford’s change are right when they note that Java is difficult for beginners. JavaScript is easier, especially when you compare hello, world in both languages.

Here it is in Java:

class HelloWorld {
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println("Hello, world!");
}
} 

And here it is JavaScript:

alert('Hello, world!'); 

Honestly, JavaScript straight up looks easier, especially for beginners just learning how to code. Introductory classes are one of the first hurdles CS majors face. If we want more people to survive and make it through the pipeline, maybe a switch to an easier language as an introduction isn’t such a bad idea.

Java might not be a clear winner as far as introduction to computer programming. However, it is winner and still champion as far as the TIOBE Programming Community Index is concerned. This change from Stanford is unlikely to have much of an effect on the job market. After all, Fortran is still around. It just means that students are starting with a different programming language, that’s all.

Everybody should sit back, relax, and enjoy the sounds of young developers at their keyboards. Java’s not going anywhere any time soon.

Author
Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for JAXenter.com

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