Dave Dittrich <>
Nathan Dors <>

What is Java?

Java is the name of a programming language, developed at Sun Microsystems in 1991. Formerly known as "Oak," this new object oriented language sprang from a project that aimed to allow computers in everything from TV sets, to VCRs, to light switches and toasters, to work together by allowing behavior to travel across the network from one device to another.

As a language, Java was designed to take the good bits of syntax and functionality of C++, but remove the problematic and complex features that made C++ unreliable and difficult to use.

Java's main advantages as a programming language are that it is:

For a more detailed introduction and background on Java, see the JavaWorld emagazine article, "Introduction to Java (in plain English)"

What does Java code look like?

[You need a Java-aware browser to view this applet.]

This is a very simple Java program, that I like to call

A more complex example of how to implement a new object type--rational numbers--can be found in This is not a Java applet, but instead a Java class which includes a main() method that can be used to test the class from the command line using the java interpreter.

Here is an applet,, for calculating rational numbers, which uses the Rational class.

[You need a Java-aware browser to view this applet.]

What is the difference between "Java" and "JavaScript?"

Rather than go into all the details here, let me just say that "JavaScript" a retro-actively renamed product that used to be called "LiveScript" (Sun loves to do this: Solaris 1.0 is the new name for the old Berkeley flavored SunOS 4.x, which is a totally different operating system than their newer System V Release 4 flavored SunOS 5.x which is part of Solaris 2.x... Sheesh. Those &@$%! marketing types!)

For more information about JavaScript, take a look at Beginner's Javascript in JavaWorld Magazine and JavaScript Resources : A Netscape 2.0 Enhanced Cheat Sheet (the latter requires Netscape 2.0 since it actually uses JavaScript).

What tools are here now, and what's coming?

As of 2/23/96, Sun's Java Development Kit (JDK) is available for MacOS, Windows 95, Windows NT, and Solaris 2.x. It includes:

These tools are still somewhat primitive, but they do let you start developing Java applications and applets. A port of the JDK for Linux is available, with another for Digital Unix in the works. (See also: the Javasoft Developer's Corner.)

Sun has promised more extensive tools that allow artists, writers, and other non-propeller-headed Web authors to "speak Java fluently," but the tools are not yet on the horizon.

Other object-oriented software development tool vendors--including Silicon Graphics, Borland, Symantec, start-up Sourcecraft, Inc., Sybase Inc.'s tool division Powersoft Corp., Natural Intelligence--are all coming out with development environments for Java. Expect to find fairly sophisticated Java development tools for MacOS, Windows 95 and NT, Solaris 2.x, HP-UX, AIX, IRIX, and many other operating systems.

And now, for someone completely different...

Nathan Dors will cover Integrating Java with the Web.

For more on Java...

See my home page.

since 03/22/96
Dave Dittrich <>
Last modified: Tue Jun 11 14:53:43 1996