18 years ago the industry was questioning the longevity of Java … and it’s still going strong

In the April 2002 edition of the Java Developer Journal (which at that time was a major monthly publication in the Java world), the magazine editor wrote a column titled “There may be trouble ahead”, questioning how long Java had left. Funny thing is, this really does seem to be a perpetual question that gets asked every few years, and yet here we are 18 years later after this article was written, and Java has been going strong for 25 years.

This year Oracle in their role as stewards for the language (after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in 2010), celebrated Java’s 25th year with a #MovedByJava social media campaign, looking back and encouraging others to share their stories and experiences from using Java over the past 25 years.

Java Developer Journal April 2002 – page 5
Java Developer Journal April 2002 – page 98

This column really has some dire predictions for the time, notably this prediction:

… 5 years? Wow.

Admittedly, the threat at that time that Microsoft’s .NET and the C# language in particular was going to take over the world was real, although Java still lived on to dominate severside processing for many years.

It sounds like at this time, Mono, the open source framework the article refers to was still in development, but even now that’s come and been around for a number of years this threat really came to nothing:

Even as Microsoft themselves have developed their own cross platform runtime for .NET apps on Windows, MacOS and Linux (.NET Core) clearly cashing in on the interest in Mono and Java’s own cross platform support with JVMs for every platform, again… this threat has still come to not much.

At the time this article was written in 2002 Java J2SE 1.4 was just released, and 18 years later we’re getting new major releases every 6 months and Java 15 was just released in September 2020, there’s clearly life in a 25 year old language yet.

Computer History Documentaries – part 2

It’s been a while since I posted this list of some of the computer history documentaries and dramas that I’ve found most interesting, so I have a few more to recommend and add to the list:

  • Silicon Cowboys – fascinating documentary about Compaq, the development of their luggable PC, and their impact on the development of the PC Compatible market. (4/27/17 – this is currently on Netflix)
  • Bedrooms to Billions – The Amiga Years : incredibly well put together indie documentary about the Amiga
  • Bedrooms to Billions: documentary about the development of the home computer games industry in the UK and Europe. Includes many interviews with the original developers and many involved in the industry at the time. If you had any interest in computer games around the mid to late 80s in the UK, this is a must watch
  • Beep – documentary about sound and music development for computer games
  • Get Lamp – documentary by Jason Scott, covering text based computer adventure games
Nicola Caulfield & Anthony Caulfield (who produced the Bedrooms to Billions documentaries) currently have a new documentary called ‘The Playstation Revolution’ that just reached it’s funding goal on Kickstarter, but if you’d like to back it you can back via MegaFounder (linked from the Late Backer link on the Kickstarter page)

Happy 20th Birthday Java! What’s your Java story?

I started learning Java in 1996, from the book ‘Learn Java in 21 Days’, published by SAMS. For some reason I even still have the same book:wpid-20150521_081822.jpg

At the time I was working for Royal Sun Alliance and we were doing OS/2 client/server development using Application Manager, against a CICS/COBOL backend. One of the guys I was working with, Mike, said I should take a look at this new language called Java because it can run on any platform. At that time developing on OS/2 and seeing demand slowing for OS/2 AM developers, the promise of a development language not tied to a specific platform seemed an attractive offer, and a potential ticket to move away from OS/2.

I started working through the exercises in the book, building my first Applets – I think one of the first applets I built was a lottery ticket number generator that I had on my webpage at the time. In 1996 it was pretty cool to have interactive content on your web site! Even though this turned out to not be Java’s strong point (most Java development is arguably server side now days), it was where it all got started.

Although I continued to play with Java in my own time, it wasn’t until I changed jobs in 1997 and moved to TSW/Indus, a software house developing Enterprise Asset Manager software, that I had the opportunity to start Java development ‘on the job’. At the time the company had a Powerbuilder/Oracle PL/SQL based client/server product, and while in that first year I cross trained to Powerbuilder, we started prototypes of building a web-based replacement for the Powerbuilder client, against a Java backend. At the time this was using a ‘Java Cartridge’ on Oracle Application Server (I think it was called), and the Java code was invoked CGI-BIN style using HTTP GET query string parameters that were passed into Java code on the server.

At some point pretty soon after these first prototypes the Servlet API came along, and then EJB1.x came along… looking back which was an absolute nightmare from a developer productivity point of view. Somewhere in there I also dabbled with some CORBA based backend running on a server that I think was called IONA (although those memories are long gone now).

I’ve seen a lot of incredible changes in the Java space, and 19 years later from where I started, I’m still coding Java and it’s still going strong!

Computer history documentaries and dramas

I love watching and reading about the evolution and history of computers and the IT industry. It’s not just the developments in technology I find fascinating, it’s the characters involved and the business deals that turned out to be so pivotal in the how the future evolved, such as the IBM deal with Microsoft to produce PC-DOS for the first IBM PC and how things could have been so different if Gary Kildall agreed to license CP/M to IBM when he was approached before IBM later went to Microsoft.

I also find it interesting how product A vs product B battles in the industry were geographically based. While Apple created the home computer market in the US, in Europe the players were different, involving Sinclair (the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum), Commodore (VIC 20 and C64) and especially for education in the UK, the BBC Micro.

I spotted this story on The Register last week about a drama documenting the competition between Sinclair and Acorn (who made the BBC Micro), called Micro Men, made a few years back. I’m pretty sure this never made it across to TV in the States, but I just found a copy on YouTube so have this queued up in my ‘must watch list’.

It’s surprising how many other great documentary and old TV shows you can find on YouTube. Some of my favorites include:

  • Triumph of the Nerds – an amazing documentary including interviews with all the major players during the development of the personal computer, including Gates, Balmer, Allen, Jobs, Wozniak, plus many others. There was only 10 minutes of the interview with Jobs included in the final version, but apparently there was 70mins of film recorded from the interview originally, and  after Jobs death, this was released as a separate film, The Lost Interview
  • BBS – a documentary about the rise and fall of dial-up BBS systems
  • Once upon Atari
  • The Computer Programme – this show first aired in the UK in 1982 and heavily featured the BBC Micro. There was also an accompanying magazine sold at the same time… I remember diligently studying every copy…
  • In the US there was Computer Chronicles on PBS, hosted by none other than Gary Kildall. I’m pretty sure I never saw this in the UK, but it’s also available on YouTube, where there’s a dedicated channel collecting most of the episodes

Anyone know any others worth watching?