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A Brief History of Java

James Gosling

Back in 1991, James Gosling invented a language called "Oak," naming it after the Oak tree that was outside his window in Menlo Park. Before this time,if you wanted to run a program you had written on another platform, you would have to recompile it first. As we know,need drives invention, particularly for efficiency. James Gosling was part of a team that was creating a handheld device known then as the Green Project. The project needed to run on differerent platforms and use animation, something languages of that time could not support he decided to develop the language known as Oak. However, it turned out that there was already a language called Oak. Seeing as they didn't want to copy someone else's name, they searched for a new name. Inspiration came when he walked into a coffee shop, so they called it "Java" in 1995.

More on Java's Early Days

*7 prototype

The Green Project was much of the reason Java, originally Oak, was invented. Their handheld device was going to be able to control electronics around the home, such as the TV. They soon moved from Menlo Park to Palo Alto and became known as FirstPerson.

"Back when we were FirstPerson, the Java technology-related stuff we were doing was built around networking, in very much an Internet style. We were pitching the cable companies on the idea that this is what your network should look like. It was interactive,and users could read and write information into the system."-James Gosling

A PDA with a tiny embedded OS was soon developed to handle the goals of FirstPerson, known as the *7 prototype. It wasn't long before more people and engineers joined the project. Among these people was graphics artist Joe Palrang,who made a cartoon character for the *7, Duke. Duke was part of the user interface, much like the office assistant is in Word and Excel. "Duke represented the user. You could drag him to the TV icon, and the TV listings would appear. Drag him to the phone book icon, and your phone numbers would appear." said interface designer Annette Wagner.The *7 handheld was finished and given a test run on September 3, 1992. The FirstPerson team was going to sell the device to the cable set-top box companies. Unfortunately, the cable set-top box companies weren't quite ready to have this kind of device yet.

More on the Green Project

Duke, Java's Mascot

Though the Green project failed,Java technology still lived on. The Internet seemed like a good place to transfer media content, so they set their focuses there. In 1994, a demo browser called WebRunner featured animated as well as interactive content. At one meeting, James Gosling showed some of the web's graphical possibilities by showing Duke, who would become the mascot of Java, doing a somersault across the screen. In 1996, Java became a commercially available programming language. In 1998, Java Card 2.0, a technology that allows programs written in Java to run on embedded platforms, debuted. In 2001, J2EE, a technology that large networks of corporations use, debuted. In 2004, a Mars Rover using Java technology had a successful landing. Java is widely used in the cell phones we own. All this, and yet a ton more, lies down the road.

Duke's Zone

Timeline Summary
1991 1995 2001 2004
Oak created for new handheld device Oak is renamed "Java", Java goes commercial Java 2 Enterprise Edition released Java 5 released




Green Project Java's official website My e-mail
A Brief History of Java/CLS/revised 1 Sep 2006