James Gosling sees new uses for the programming language he
created 10 years ago, such as making his home-entertainment system work right
James Gosling is a research
fellow and chief technology officer of the developer products group at Silicon
Valley computer maker Sun Microsystems , but he'll forever be remembered for his
landmark contribution to tech history: He's the father of Java, the programming
language that set off a revolution in software design in the mid-1990s.
Thanks to Gosling's code,
most programs used on the Internet can now run on almost any hardware platform,
whether it's the Macintosh or a PC, cell phone or mainframe. As Java passed its
10th anniversary recently, he reminisced about the technology's past with
BusinessWeek Computers Editor Peter Burrows and shared his excitement for
Java's future. Following are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: As I understand it,
Java began as a technology for use in interactive TV and quickly morphed into
something with broader implications. How did that happen?
A: Actually, when the project first started, we weren't focused on
interactive television. A few of us had gone off to think about where digital
systems were going, and one particularly fascinating piece of the universe was
in embedded systems -- consumer systems like telephones and televisions or in
industrial products such as locomotives and elevators. It was clear digital
systems were going into more and more of these products, so we built a prototype
[of Java-like software] to reflect what we were seeing.
Then we decided to focus on just one thing, and our first stab at it was a
response to an RFP [request for proposal] that Time Warner put out for
something called a full-service network in 1992 or 1993. That's what sent us
down the interactive-TV direction, but we had a whole series of ideas for things
we felt were likely to happen.
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