Java is the language some people love, some people hate, and some people love to hate. Over 20 years since its introductions, it’s risen to be one of the most popular programming languages in current use, provided you avail yourself of the latest updates. But would you believe it, if you were told that this omnipresent language, the one that powers everything from apps on your phone to machines on other planets, arose from a need to build a better TV remote? You might be curious to learn some interesting facts about Java’s past and find out what makes this programming language so popular. Still, if you are eager to sneak a peek into the future and find out whether Java is projected to survive the test of time, check out another article.
How it all started…
Computers at their core only process commands in a program, and what’s known as machine code. Basically, the number is associated with a function and when this number is put into the CPU, the CPU does that operation. Most of these operations are simple, like adding two numbers together and saving data to memory. Of course, you could write programs for the processor using just machine code. That’s what people would do in the early days. But the problem was that writing code as a series of numbers for simple operation was unintuitive and required an intimate knowledge of hardware. What’s more, it was quite tedious for writing anything other than a small program, since every function would need to be built from the ground up. And as a result of it, it was highly prone to error. The solution from very early on was to write a program called a compiler, which could generate the appropriate machine code from a more English-like language.
There is a catch with compiler languages, though. You cannot take code compiled from one processor and run it on a different one. There is no universal standard for how CPU instructions are laid out, meaning that a program compiled from an Intel processor wouldn’t work on a PowerPC processor. That is where Java comes in and saves the day. Java offers a workable solution through a program called JVM (Java Virtual Machine). The JVM acts as a processor designed specifically to run Java bytecode while sitting on top of other processors.
But Java wasn’t developed specifically for this purpose. In the 1990s, Java was used for building a network centered around multimedia. Normally, since the Internet is populated with computers of all sorts of different architectures, operating systems, and browsers, any web-based program would need to be released in different versions to support all of them. With Java, which was called Oak back then, a website would only need to include only one version of the program. And as long as you used the browser that supported Oak, you could run the program. Thus, Oak made multimedia more accessible to users back in the 90s.
In 1994, the team of Oak developers got to work on making their own web browser. After the lengthy process of trying to come up with a name that sounded inviting, didn’t reference the web, and was easy to spell and say, the team finally settled on Java.
Designed in line with C and C++ programming languages in style and syntax, Java became popular very soon with developers and programming communities due to its unique and useful features.
What makes Java popular today
Object-oriented programming (OOP) has revolutionized the way the applications are developed. Being an OOP language itself, Java allows developers to reuse already written code and considerably simplifies its maintenance. It also offers clear modular structures and accelerates the overall development process.
Its omnipresence is another feature that distinguishes Java from other programming languages. Now that the world has become so mobile and heavily app-dependent, Java acts as an indispensable tool that powers billions of Android and web applications and tools like NetBeans IDE Eclipse, and IntelliJ IDEA. Lots of developers rely on Java to put together robust and fast mobile apps. What’s more, now that the IoT-based solutions and machine learning are dominating the software development landscape, many programmers tap into Java’s potential to build M2M and IoT-based solutions.
Java’s API is famed for its ease of use, usability, and rich features. The Java API is brimful of methods that can be directly used in an app, which spares developers the bother of gaining hands-on experience in all of them. Basic knowledge of these methods is normally enough to program in Java.