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Java: 27 years of innovation

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May 24, 2022
Oleg Chi

When Java was created in 1995, few could imagine that in 27 years, a third of developers would be using it as their main language. The most popular programming languages back then were C, C++, Fortran, and Pascal. It took Java only five years to take the lead and stay on top to the present day.

We have decided to congratulate Java on its birthday and pay homage to it by highlighting the best moments in its past and present, and taking a look into its future.

The early age

Java was born in 1991 as part of the Green Project at Sun Microsystems. Three people initiated the project: Mike Sheridan was responsible for business development, Patrick Naughton worked on the graphic subsystem, and James Gosling developed the design. The language was called “Oak” after the tree outside the office window.

The language was originally developed for interactive TV, but at some point, half of the team left the project for Silicon Graphics, and the language itself seemed too innovative and ahead of its time. In 1992, the team demonstrated the first platform prototype and then focused on a PDA device *7 (Star Seven). The language called Oak already existed so the new one was renamed into Java.

The Mosaic browser was launched in 1993 and transformed the world of Internet technologies. So the Green Project team decided to create a browser written in Java only and released it in 1994 under the name of HotJava. Java itself was officially presented at the Sun World conference on May 23d, 1995. Java 1.0 came out in 1996. Today, after 18 releases, Java surpassed even the boldest expectations!

The prime of life

What is the secret behind Java’s success?

  • Clear and convenient syntax
  • Strict typing
  • All-encompassing and reliable standard library
  • Platform-independence
  • Formal specification

Maybe the most important secret is Java’s open-source nature and large community that enables its rapid evolution. Thanks to all these advantages Java is utilized in multiple fields of work like these:

Online services and social networks

Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, and many other companies whose products are used by millions of people globally utilize JVM and Java. There are various reports on how exactly they integrate Java into their workflows: have a look at the presentations by Chris Thalinger from Twitter or Josh Evans from Netflix.

Enterprise

If you are using an enterprise portal or bug tracker in your line of work, there is a high chance it is written in Java. The most popular ones are Jira and YouTrack. Companies are utilizing Java for internal development, for instance, in Business Process Management (BPM) or Enterprise Asset Management (EAM). Modern frameworks such as Spring and MicroProfile are very convenient and extremely popular among developers because they provide a comprehensive platform for writing various applications, including enterprise ones. Java is supported by all key cloud providers: Amazon, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and is also suitable for implementing tools and best practices of DevOps.

Desktop applications and IDE

Regardless of the preferred programming language, most developers are well acquainted with development environments: IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse IDE, and NetBeans. They are created utilizing frameworks such as Swing and SWT. Thanks to concise and excellent architecture and simple development process, we can develop plugins for them and add support of favorite technologies.

Big Data

Hadoop, Spark, Flink, and Storm are based on the JVM languages. In 2022, Java, Scala, and Python were named the most popular languages for developers working with big data.

Scientific calculations and engineering

If your work involves mathematics, you must have heard about or are already using MATLAB or Maple. These solutions utilize Java both for graphic interface and backend. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) also maintains several Java projects and GitHub organizations.

Video games

In 2019, Minecraft Java Edition became the best-selling video game of all time despite it being created in 2008. There are not many games with graphics developed in Java, but it is a commonly used language for server backend, for instance, in Blizzard and Electronic Arts.

Internet of Things and Embedded

Last but not least, Java is one of the most convenient software solutions for hardware. One can create amateur projects with smart light switches, experiment with robotics, integrate cloud solutions such as Amazon IoT Platform, and develop many other interesting technologies. A lot of IoT projects were developed with support from Eclipse.

A never-ending story

These advancements of Java in the world of programming would be impossible without an active community. Thousands of developers and companies contribute to Java development thus shaping the Java ecosystem we know.

We all enjoy the benefits of the OpenJDK project, Java frameworks, and specifications such as Spring and Jakarta. Businesses can form a comprehensive technology stack based on Java, which simplifies the development process and accelerates time-to-market.

There are many new OpenJDK distributions that appeared in recent years. They are supported by major Java contributors: Oracle, BellSoft, Azul, Amazon, and others. New enhancements are integrated into each Java version. The release cycle has been shortened, new versions come out twice a year. Therefore, Java is characterized by constant improvement, with new innovations such as Amber, Leyden, Loom, Panama, Valhalla, ZGC on the way.

Between JDK 8 and JDK 18, more than two thousand changes were introduced into garbage collection only. Container and cloud support has also been enhanced.

At the same time, Java is a secure language because it maintains a balance between rapid innovations and adherence to traditions. Therefore, it provides developers with great compatibility, performance, and reliability.

We believe that 27 is not the autumn of Java’s life, but spring with many years of breathtaking improvements and innovations ahead.

Happy birthday, dear Java!

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