Rock Art & Rockets

Java’s future is in your hands, urges Steve Poole at JAX London

Elliot Bentley

“In 2015, is Java just going to be 20 years old, or is it going to be new and vital?” asked IBM’s Poole in his JAX London keynote.

Opening day two of JAX London with a keynote titled ‘Rock Art & Rockets’, Steve Poole of IBM issued a self-described “impassioned plea” for attendees to get more involved in the Java community. “This talk is about you, and how you can participate,” he emphasised. “The future of Java is squarely in your hands.”

The talk itself was divided into three parts, the first covering a brief history of Java and the context into which it was born into. The importance of Java, said Poole, was how it helped prevent the internet from being dominated by closed-source, proprietary languages, as competing companies came together to collaborate on open technology.

Poole briefly explored Moore’s Law, which was also touched upon in the community keynote. Using pizzas of increasing size as an analogy for increasing transistor density, he said that the real question is what extra toppings should be added. Interestingly, Poole’s data suggested that Java developers are actually receiving performance improvements at a greater rate than Moore’s law dictates – far above other languages – as the language improves.

The second part of the keynote was on “today’s challenges”, which included the cloud, app stores, the emergence of four industry-dominating giants, attempting to compete with attractive new programming languages and encouraging the adoption and use of new Java capabilities.

Poole repeatedly told the audience that “we” – referring to IBM, Oracle and other Java-centric companies – could take Java in any direction, should developers shout loud enough.

“Do you want Java on the iPhone?” he asked at one point. “If you want it, you need to let us know.” Later, he added: “Do you guys want a Java app store? If you let us know [that] it’s something we want, then we can do it.”

Similarly, he urged the audience to reflect on what makes newer languages like node.js and Clojure so attractive, and bring these ideas back to Java. “When you say, ‘I want to learn Java, but…’, tell us what that is,” he said.

Another way the Java community can help shape the future of Java is to test it out, said Poole. For example, “the modularity story [the Jigsaw project, now scheduled for Java 9] is a bit of a mess – it’s bigger than Oracle anticipated, [and] they need people to help”.

He urged the audience to download the existing, unfinished modularity driver. “We need you to be using modularity against your applications”, he said. “[We need to know] what you love and what you hate.” Otherwise, when modularity arrives – “you get what you get”.

“All I want you to do is be visible,” said Poole in the final section of the keynote, which was titled ‘Your Choice’. “If you’re a caveman, and you’ve only just started using Java, you’re just as valuable as a person using Java to put rockets on the moon.”

“Writing blogs, reporting bugs, writing code – if you’ve got the time and resources to do it, then go do it!”

Poole ended with an epilogue explaining the title of the keynote (‘Rock Art & Rockets’, in case you’ve forgotten). “What’s Java going to be like in 2015?” he asked.

“It is just going to be 20 years old, or is it going to be new and vital? Do you want rock art or rockets?”

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