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Looking back on 20 years of Java

Java memories – the good times and the bad

JAX Editorial Team
Twenty image via Shutterstock

After 20 years of programming, it’s time for the Java community to tell its stories. We’ve asked Java veterans Heinz Kabutz, Heiko Seeberger, Eberhard Wolff and JAX London speaker Angelika Langer to share their best and worst Java memories with us.

To celebrate 20 years of Java, the German Java Magazin recently invited leading individuals from the Java scene to reminisce about their personal highlights of past two decades in Java.

When was the first time when you thought “Damn, Java’s actually pretty cool!”

Angelika Langer: 1995. At that time, we were working in the US. The internet was cool and so Java was cool. Because Java was the first and, back then, the only language that the Internet supported – for example with Applets. Ridiculous actually, if you think about it from today’s perspective. No one uses Applets these days, but back then Java was cool, and it was sexy.

Eberhard Wolff: It was some time in 1996. Back then, garbage collection, a simple language core and the whole Internet story around Applets were really a big step forward.

Heiko Seeberger: That must have been just about 1996 when I realised the benefits of garbage collection. And then again a bit later, in 1998, when I was working with Java Applets – yes, Java Applets! – at a startup for the development of online insurance cards for car insurance.

Heinz Kabutz: In 1997 I had to decide between continuing with C++ or switching to Java. And luckily I made the right decision. In the beginning it was pretty tough working with Java, but today it’s the most popular language in the world. But Java’s not quite ‘cool’, more like ‘reliable’. The cool ones are languages like Groovy. The name alone says it.

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The 20th anniversary issue of Java Magazin

Be honest – what was your darkest Java moment?

Eberhard Wolff: The stagnation in the core language between 2006 (Java 6) and 2011 (Java 7) together with the Oracle acquisition were not great – but also during that time the community did ​​exciting stuff. For me it was the beginning of Spring, which made it a second literal Java Spring.

Heiko Seeberger: For me there was no single moment, but a continuous sunset (pun intended), not with regard to the JVM, but in terms of the language.

Heinz Kabutz: There was many of them. When Sun Microsystems was sold. And when Oracle sued Google, even though Google contributed greatly to the success of Java. The Ask Toolbar and now Yahoo Search that gets automatically installed on Windows with Java Runtime.

Angelika Langer: It was at a workshop in Rapperswil in Switzerland where we wanted to show the performance benefits in Java from parallelization (with Fork/Join, I believe). All benchmarks were perfectly prepared and tested. But unfortunately it turned out that only one participant had brought a hardware that was similar to ours. All other workshop participants got consistently different results. That gave us lots to think about … about the performance model of Java … and benchmarks in general.

How would your birthday speech for Java begin?

Heiko Seeberger: Thanks Java, you played a significant role in my positive career – particularly your weaknesses, which would ultimately lead me to Scala.

Heinz Kabutz: Thanks for taking such good care of me over the past 20 years!

Angelika Langer: I actually held a Java eulogy at the GeeCON in Krakow in May. I can’t remember what the first words for my birthday speech were. “Happy Birthday” certainly wasn’t how it began. I do know that the final words were something like: “Here’s to the next twenty years!”

Eberhard Wolff: There’s one thing that distinguishes us humans from programming languages. Over the years, it’s only programming languages ​​that get both more mature and more powerful. Or are you even just a programming language, Java? You’re more like a platform for newcomers like Clojure, Scala …

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