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Introduction

[ Return to Thinking in Java 2, 3rd edition ]

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Thinking in Java, 3rd ed. Revision 4.0: Introduction
MindView Inc.

Thinking in Java, 3rd ed. Revision 4.0


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Introduction

“He gave man speech, and speech created thought, Which is the measure of the Universe”—Prometheus Unbound, Shelley

Human beings ... are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication and reflection. The fact of the matter is that the "real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.

The Status Of Linguistics As A Science, 1929, Edward Sapir

Like any human language, Java provides a way to express concepts. If successful, this medium of expression will be significantly easier and more flexible than the alternatives as problems grow larger and more complex. Feedback

You can’t look at Java as just a collection of features—some of the features make no sense in isolation. You can use the sum of the parts only if you are thinking about design, not simply coding. And to understand Java in this way, you must understand the problems with it and with programming in general. This book discusses programming problems, why they are problems, and the approach Java has taken to solve them. Thus, the set of features that I explain in each chapter are based on the way I see a particular type of problem being solved with the language. In this way I hope to move you, a little at a time, to the point where the Java mindset becomes your native tongue. Feedback

Throughout, I’ll be taking the attitude that you want to build a model in your head that allows you to develop a deep understanding of the language; if you encounter a puzzle, you’ll be able to feed it to your model and deduce the answer. Feedback

Prerequisites

This book assumes that you have some programming familiarity: you understand that a program is a collection of statements, the idea of a subroutine/function/macro, control statements such as “if” and looping constructs such as “while,” etc. However, you might have learned this in many places, such as programming with a macro language or working with a tool like Perl. As long as you’ve programmed to the point where you feel comfortable with the basic ideas of programming, you’ll be able to work through this book. Of course, the book will be easier for the C programmers and more so for the C++ programmers, so don’t count yourself out if you’re not experienced with those languages—but come willing to work hard (also, the multimedia CD that accompanies this book will bring you up to speed in the fundamentals necessary to learn Java). However, I will be introducing the concepts of object-oriented programming (OOP) and Java’s basic control mechanisms. Feedback

Although references will often be made to C and C++ language features, these are not intended to be insider comments, but instead to help all programmers put Java in perspective with those languages, from which, after all, Java is descended. I will attempt to make these references simple and to explain anything that I think a non- C/C++ programmer would not be familiar with. Feedback

Learning Java

At about the same time that my first book Using C++ (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1989) came out, I began teaching that language. Teaching programming languages has become my profession; I’ve seen nodding heads, blank faces, and puzzled expressions in audiences all over the world since 1987. As I began giving in-house training with smaller groups of people, I discovered something during the exercises. Even those people who were smiling and nodding were confused about many issues. I found out, by creating and chairing the C++ track at the Software Development Conference for a number of years (and later creating and chairing the Java track), that I and other speakers tended to give the typical audience too many topics too quickly. So eventually, through both variety in the audience level and the way that I presented the material, I would end up losing some portion of the audience. Maybe it’s asking too much, but because I am one of those people resistant to traditional lecturing (and for most people, I believe, such resistance results from boredom), I wanted to try to keep everyone up to speed. Feedback

For a time, I was creating a number of different presentations in fairly short order. Thus, I ended up learning by experiment and iteration (a technique that also works well in Java program design). Eventually, I developed a course using everything I had learned from my teaching experience. It tackles the learning problem in discrete, easy-to-digest steps, and in a hands-on seminar (the ideal learning situation), there are exercises following each of the short lessons. My company MindView, Inc. now gives this as the public and in-house Thinking in Java seminar; this is our main introductory seminar that provides the foundation for our more advanced seminars. You can find details at www.MindView.net. (The introductory seminar is also available as the Hands-On Java CD ROM. Information is available at the same Web site.) Feedback

The feedback that I get from each seminar helps me change and refocus the material until I think it works well as a teaching medium. But this book isn’t just seminar notes; I tried to pack as much information as I could within these pages, and structured it to draw you through onto the next subject. More than anything, the book is designed to serve the solitary reader who is struggling with a new programming language. Feedback



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