Java comes of age

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 model, inner 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 Java technology.

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 systems. 

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 JCP.

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 available.

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 discs. 

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 OpenJDK project.

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.

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