> Read this perspective
Real, happened somewhere in CA, United States
sometime between 1990 and 2000 (early in the period)

How everything started

The Java history started to be written when James Gosling, Patrick Naughton and Mike Sheridan joined two Sun Microsystems founders, Andy Bechtolsheim e Bill Joy, to think about the new wave in the digital world. They soon realized that the new wave would be the convergence of computers and devices used in the day to day life. Everything interconnected and controlled remotely.

This way, they started the Green Project. The goal of the Green Project was to create a system that would allow to build a distributed and heterogeneous network of consumer electronic devices, all communicating with each other. They chose the challenge of creating a software environment that would be super cool (yes, this was one of the requirements!), interesting to the consumer market and at the same time attractive to software developers. The system should involve art and design, and it should be implemented by a small group of people in less than one year. The goal was not easy.

In the initial task division, Mike Sheridan was responsible for business development, Patrick Naughton for the graphic system, and James Gosling (the project leader) was responsible for finding the right programming language for the project. During one year and a half, the Green Project got new members and became a team of 13 people.

Here is a picture of the Green Project team:

From left to right in the picture, you can see: Al Frazier, Joe Palrang, Mike Sheridan, Ed Frank, Don Jackson, Faye Baxter, Patrick Naughton, Chris Warth, James Gosling, Bob Weisblatt, David Lavallee and Jon Payne. Missing: Cindy Long, Chuck Clanton, Sheueling Chang and Craig Forrest.


> Read this perspective
Real, happened in Mountain View, CA, United States
sometime between 1990 and 2000 (early in the period)

How Java was created

The history of Java started in 1991, when the Green Project began at Sun Microsystems. The Green Project was a formed by a small group of engineers that believed that the next wave in computing was the union of digital consumer devices and computers.

Since they needed a multi-platform programming language that would run on multiple devices, the team, leaded by James Gosling, created a programming language called Oak. Oak was later renamed to Java.


> Read this perspective
Real, happened somewhere in CA, United States
sometime between 1990 and 2000

The programming language

While in the Green Project, James Gosling started investigating programming languages that would work in embedded systems with limited resources. He started to modify and extend C/C++ (he called it "C++ ++ --"), but soon he gave up and decided to create a new language, with peculiar features, like:

  • Syntax similar to C/C++: having a syntax that would be familiar to many developers would help its dissemination and learning;
  • Safe: no pointer! A good protection against bad behaving programs trying to access forbidden memory addresses;
  • Reliable: imagine if you had to reboot your consumer devices all the time…;
  • Garbage collected: the garbage collection would provide more efficiency in memory usage;
  • Multiplatform: portable to different devices, independently of CPU type
  • Interpreted: to make it easier the translator work, the language should be converted to a intermediate format (the byte-code) that would sent through the network to be dynamically executed in the actual device.

This new language was called Greentalk (and the source file extensions were .gt), but after a while Gosling renamed it to Oak, inspired by an oak tree in front of his office. Close to the launching date, because of another language with the same name, the team had to choose a new one. Gosling does not know exactly who said "Java" first, but Java was the fourth name in a list that had names like "Silk" and "Lyric".

The best explanation for the name is in this email sent by James Gosling to Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO in 2007:

From: James Gosling
Date: August 24, 2007 8:16:58 PM PDT
To: Jonathan Schwartz

Subject: How was Java named?

The story goes like this:

We needed a name. We had been using "oak" (which was selected
essentially randomly by me), and while the team had grown attached to
it, the trademark lawyers ruled it out. We had lots of email debates
about names, but nothing got resolved. We ended up in the awkward
position where the #1 thing stopping us from shipping was the name.

Our marketing lead knew someone who was a "naming consultant" (I don't
remember his name, but he was great). We could neither afford the
price nor the time of a conventional product naming process. He agreed
to do something rather odd, but effective and quick: he acted as a
facilitator at a meeting where about a dozen of us locked ourselves in
a room for an afternoon. He started asking us questions like "How does
this thing make you feel?" (Excited!) "What else makes you feel that
way?" (Java!) We ended up with a board covered with essentially random
words. Then he put us through a sorting process where we ended up with
a ranking of the names. We ended up with a dozen name candidates and
sent them off to the lawyers: they worked down the list until they hit
one that cleared their search. "Java" was the fourth name on the list.
The  first name on the list was "Silk", which I hated but everyone
else liked. My favorite was "Lyric", the third one on the list, but it
didn't pass the lawyers test. I don't remember what the other
candidate names where.

So, who named Java? Marketing organized the meeting, the consultant
ran it, and a whole pile of us did a lot of yelling out of random
words. I'm honestly not real sure who said "Java"  first, but I'm
pretty sure it was Mark Opperman.

There certainly wasn't any brilliant marketing mind who went through a
coherent thought process.  

This email was published on Jonathan Schwartz's blog, but the blog is now gone, after Oracle acquisition.


> Read this perspective
Real, happened somewhere in CA, United States
in 1991

Star7 and Duke are born

In April of 1991, the Java project got a new member in the team: Ed Frank, SPARCstation 10 architect, that leaded the hardware development. In two months, he designed and created a PDA (Personal Digital Assitent) named Star7 (or *7). It had a 5 inches LCD touchscreen monitor, 900 MHz wireless network, multimedia audio and PCMCIA inputs. The group managed to put SunOS, the Oak interpreter, graphical libraries, UI objects, images, sounds, and animations in this small device. Everything running in 4 MB of RAM. *7 worked as a kind of remote control to several devices. In order to make it easier to use *7, they created a virtual agent, sort of a Master of Ceremonies, a small and animated character that would jump and would be in all screens in the system. Later, that little agent would be named "Duke" and became known as the Java maskot. Many years later, Duke drawings were open sources with a BSD license, allowing everyone to use it freely. That allowed the mascot to be customized in many ways, even as a Brazil soccer fan for the Soccer World Cup!

The Green Team got more members and became a Sun Microsystems subsidiary, called FirstPerson. But soon, the project had bad moments. They lost two of their principal executives and FirstPerson didn't create a consistent business plan. Because of that, it was not capable of selling this awesome technical device to the electronics industry, neither to companies like Time Warner and 3DO, as a set-top box for cable TV. Star7 didn't survive (only six devices were built), and the reduced version of SunOS was also killed. Not having success, the project ended up incorporated to Sun again.


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