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Author and Book Information
|RICH STILLER (with Jos Marlowe)|
Richard Stiller's third book. His first,
RIGHTFUL TERMINATION, was co-authored with his good
friend Ron Visconti and was published in
1995. His second book, INFLUENCE AS POWER,
was published on the internet in 1995 and may be
the first book written specifically for the NET.
In 1997 a hard copy was published by SunLabs.
Richard has plenty of business experience to draw upon having worked in Silicon Valley since 1977. He has spent time at companies such as Atari, pacific Telesis, Electronic Arts, Borland and Sun Microsystems.
His first love is history, having graduated with a degree in history and archaeology from San Francisco State.
Mr. Stiller often prefers to look to the past to find paradigms for the present. Hence the inspiration for ASUNDER.
|ASUNDER; An Unauthorized History of the JAVA Programming Language|
|Some of the
readers of "Asunder" understand the
ramifications of Java. Other may not. If you do not
understand why Java changed the paradigm of
computing, hopefully the following will explain it
well enough for the non-technical audience to
appreciate the significance of why Java is so important.
Programmers write programs (software applications) that make hardware (computers, other electronic devices) perform certain functions. Generally the applications access the hardware through an operating system. The operating system is specific to the hardware, which means that the applications are also specific to the hardware. In other words, before Java, if you wanted to write an Apple application you wrote it to work on Apple's operating system. And then you rewrote portions of it if you wanted it to run on any other hardware/operating system.
While the industry was very young this did not pose an unreasonable burden - there were separate markets for the users of each brand of hardware, so porting (translating to a different hardware platform) was not strictly necessary. But the main hardware vendors (Apple and Intel) pursued different strategies: Apple offered a "closed system" of very high reliability and ease-of-use and but correspondingly high cost and limited choice, whereas Intel offered an "open system" of lower reliability and correspondingly lower cost but with a wide range of choices. As time progressed, the market-driven Intel platform improved in reliability while the proprietary Apple platform did not improve in variety, eventually making Intel the dominant hardware platform.
Microsoft wrote the operating system for the Intel platform, and the first user-friendly release (which copied many of the same ideas that Apple had copied from Xerox) was named "Windows." Microsoft made Windows a closed system over which Microsoft had complete control. If you wanted to write an application for the PC you wrote it to run on Windows to Microsoft's specifications. The specifications changed from release to release so you spent a considerable amount of time re-writing your application so that it would run on the latest release of Windows.
Then the Internet exploded and people wanted more choices. They wanted to download and use software applications written by other people. They did not want to be concerned about what kind of hardware the other people had used to build the software. This (quite reasonable) expectation was difficult or impossible to meet before Sun invented Java. Java provided an extra layer between the operating system and the applications (this layer is called a "virtual machine") and applications could run on this layer regardless of the underlying hardware or operating system.
Java became a universal translator. It broke Microsoft's stranglehold on the wildly lucrative PC platform. Think of it this way by analogy: it was as if users were using incompatible means of transportation: monorails, trains, trolley cars and cable cars. Each method of transportation dominated some portion of the landscape - if you wanted to tour Disneyland you could either walk or ride the monorail. Disney could charge you to ride the monorail because the choice was between paying or walking. Microsoft was building a toll highway on the PC platform in exactly this mode. Then Sun invented (and gave away) something like a 4-wheel drive sports utility vehicle. Now anyone who wanted to could drive almost anywhere they wanted to without paying tolls. This is the beauty of Java - you can go anywhere you want on your own terms. You don't have to pay tolls or buy a new vehicle every time Microsoft makes a new release of the operating system.
Understandably Microsoft was not pleased. First they were forced to license Java so that their Internet strategy seemed relevant. Then they may have modified the virtual machine for Windows so that certain Java applications written for it did not run elsewhere. Sun sued Microsoft for breech of contract and the lawsuit is ongoing but gathering headway as other companies sue Microsoft for similar behavior.
The bottom line is: Java is an "open system" while Microsoft's virtual machines are "closed systems." Java offers access to the open highway and surrounding countryside while Microsoft offers a really nice monorail.
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