TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jul 96 Dialog Box
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:7
Column Tag:Dialog Box

Dialog Box

By Matt Neuburg, letters@mactech.com

Java Without the Hype

Introduction

Talking to my colleagues about Java, I find as many skeptics as enthusiasts. Both sides generally are reacting to the hype, the one rejecting it, the other accepting it. But there are reasons to praise and disparage Java without regard to that hype - that is, without regard to its use on the Internet.

Such a critique is possible because Java is designed to (among other things) support the development of stand-alone, cross-platform applications. So the question at hand really is, “How good is Java as a general-purpose language, and how good is its implementation?”

Java Implementation

As it happens, the rough spots in Java are due mainly to its implementation, which is correctable, not to its language features. The Java libraries are incomplete. I could not, for example, mimic a simple FaceSpan-built interface in Java; it seems not to distinguish checkboxes and radio buttons. The libraries are buggy; list boxes would not reshape or draw correctly, for example. More important, there is no visual interface builder (yet); interfaces have to be created “inside out” - that is, starting with text, as during the Neolithic Age. FaceSpan, Visual Basic, Delphi and others have shown that there should be visual interface builders for a language from day one.

It is also shocking to see the sloppy, unannotated, even unformatted “example” applets made public in the developer’s kit.

But implementation problems are correctable; they are significant only until they are fixed. The more important aspects of a language are its feature set and the development methodology that it supports. This is the side of a language that is cast in concrete, and that can make it usable immediately and for the long term - or not. Now the question is, “Does Java represent progress in language design?”

A Little History

Program language design has made great progress during its 50-year history, albeit in steps both forward and backward. Real-life usage constantly suggests or demands new features and, when “enough” demand has accumulated, some brave soul abandons the current languages to design another that addresses at least some of the demands.

The demands upon languages are both concrete and abstract. Concrete demands relate to things like control constructs, data types and fine points of syntax and semantics. More abstract demands are those in support of certain methodologies; these, of course, lead to concrete demands, such as demand for a syntax that supports data abstraction.

It is fairly easy to see the major trends in language design, and to see the progressive and regressive language features. Here are some of the major trends:

• Movement toward “higher-level” control constructs, those that do more in fewer instructions. From assembly-language looping constructs, we moved to the FORTRAN “for” loop, and to the implicit loops of APL or the removal of loops by way of recursion.

• Simplification and reduction, the factoring out of necessary and sufficient features from the current feature experiments. In PL/I, we could loop n times, forward or backward; or loop over any arbitrary list of numbers; or over any combination of forward, backward and arbitrary; and do this “while” or “until” some other condition is true. Pascal reduced this to the simplest “for”, “repeat” and “while” loops.

• Putting features into libraries instead of into the language itself. PL/I is a huge language; every conceivable feature (at the time) was put into it. C, on the other hand, is a small core language with large standard libraries.

• Strong typing, which is the detection at compile time of errors that would otherwise occur at run time. Familiar examples of this concern type-checking in expressions and in parameter lists. In FORTRAN and C, actual and formal parameters need not match; in Pascal and Ada, they must match or the program will not compile.

• Information hiding in all its forms, including encapsulation, data abstraction and objects. Opportunities for information hiding within a COBOL program are non-existent; it is very much better in Pascal; and it is key to Object Pascal and C++, both of which support objects.

There was much more in this historical mix - recursion, functional programming, orthogonality, regularity, parameter-passing protocols, and many advances in the implementation of these features - but I think I have highlighted the major ones.

Progress and Regression

The hundreds of languages that have sprung up in the last 50 years, including the dozen that have seen widespread adoption, were not always progressively better, although most fit the moods in which they were designed.

Pascal was progressive because it was a simplification, because it demonstrated the benefits of strong typing, and because it was designed for fast, single-pass compilation. But it was too simple for real-world development until it had good supporting libraries.

C was progressive because it, too, was a simplification, and because it defined a set of libraries as “standard” extensions of the language. But C was also regressive with respect to its arcane declaration syntax, the weakest typing since assembly language, and its exclusion of strings as a native type.

Object Pascal and C++ were progressive because they catenated objects onto compiled languages already in widespread use, but Object Pascal now suffers “socially” from being based upon an abandoned language, while C++ suffers technically from being based upon C.

Java’s Place in History

And now Java: How does Java fit into the evolution of languages? It is progressive in several ways, some of which are:

• It is a simplification (but not an over-simplification) of C++, the most popular object-oriented language.

• It reasserts the necessity of strong typing.

• It brings strings back into the language (and makes arrays first-class citizens).

• It provides high-level program-structuring features - packages and interfaces.

• Objects are central to its design; they are not just an add-on or an “orientation”.

Java does perpetuate some irritating features of C and C++. For example, it uses the prefix notation for declarations, whereby you sometimes must read a half-dozen qualifiers before you can find an object’s name. But, minor irritants aside, Java is a real advance in language design.

This does not mean, of course, that everyone will like its features or even use them to greatest advantage. C hackers (not all C programmers) who now willingly pass along the costs of weak typing and wild-card pointers to their customers will be irritated that there is no switch to turn off responsible programming. And I have already seen a published binary-tree example that simply ignores the object features to implement the tree in a completely “traditional” way. But programming has always included ego, habit, ignorance, self-indulgence and resistance to change, alongside common sense, experimentation, experience, responsibility and progress. Good languages tend to support the good programming traits, but they cannot always suppress the bad.

Summary

Even if we disregard the self-serving hype of all who hope to profit financially from the spread of Java (and especially if we disregard the ignorant parroting of the popular press and the “new world order” freaks), we find that Java is an important step in the evolution of programming languages, a step we all need to take.

Postscript

Let me make a proposal concerning Java: programmers should hijack it.

Java is an important new tool; we must not accept the idea that it is just for the Internet, or just for “applets”, or just for cross-platform development, or that it is just Sun’s language. Schools should start teaching it in introductory courses; we should create a demand for good compilers (even if machine-specific) and good development environments; and we should pressure Java’s authors and promoters into making the standard libraries correct, comprehensive and truly cross-platform as soon as possible.

- David “Uncle Dave” Moffat, Senior Engineer at SDU
uncle.dave@sdu.com

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Printopia 3.0.4 - Share Mac printers wit...
Run Printopia on your Mac to share its printers to any capable iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Printopia will also add virtual printers, allowing you to save print-outs to your Mac and send to apps.... Read more
Tinderbox 7.3.1 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more
ExpanDrive 6.1.6 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Printopia 3.0.4 - Share Mac printers wit...
Run Printopia on your Mac to share its printers to any capable iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Printopia will also add virtual printers, allowing you to save print-outs to your Mac and send to apps.... Read more
Tinderbox 7.3.1 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more
ExpanDrive 6.1.6 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
VOX 3.0.1 - Music player that supports m...
VOX just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
Merlin Project 4.3.3 - $289.00
Merlin Project is the leading professional project management software for OS X. If you plan complex projects on your Mac, you won’t get far with a simple list of tasks. Good planning raises... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 7.1 - Copy, backup, an...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
iMazing 2.5.2 - Complete iOS device mana...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

148Apps' Ultimate Guide to Black Fr...
Black Friday is here, and there are a whole lot of discounts running right now for folks on the lookout for new mobile devices, accessories, and yes, even games. Here's a helpful rundown of what you'll find both in stores and online. Happy... | Read more »
The best Black Friday mobile game deals
Black Friday's upon us, and if you've happened to nab a fancy new phone during the week's big savings, you might be searching for some new games to fill up space on your new gadget. There are a lot of great games on sale right now for Black Friday... | Read more »
The best mobile games to play while your...
Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with loved ones, eat lots of food, and all of that jazz, but once the festivities start to wind down, folks tend to head to the couch to watch whatever football is happening for Turkey Day. | Read more »
The best Black Friday deals for Apple ga...
Black Friday is hours away at this point, but many popular retailers are getting a jump on things with plenty of pre-Black Friday sales already available. Many of those early bird sales including some sharp discounts on the latest Apple phones... | Read more »
The Inner World 2 (Games)
The Inner World 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Solve mind-bending puzzles in a world full of mystery and save the family of the flute-noses! Their dynasty has been... | Read more »
warbot.io wants you for the robot wars
Fans of epic gundam-style battles will find a lot to love in warbot.io, the first game for up and coming developer Wondersquad. The game saw a lot of success when it first launched for browsers and Facebook, and now even more people are getting the... | Read more »
Uncover alien mysteries in cross-genre s...
If the Alien franchise taught us anything, it’s that landing on a strange planet at the behest of a faceless corporation is probably asking for trouble. And Eldritch Game’s Deliria doesn’t prove otherwise. In 2107, Dimension LG7 is rich with... | Read more »
The best mobile games to play during dre...
| Read more »
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp beginner...
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, was just announced yesterday, but it's already in soft launch in Australia. No matter where you are in the world, you can still get access to the soft launch on iOS, so we've devised a few beginner tips for folks who... | Read more »
The mobile gamer's guide to Black F...
We're starting to catch wind of some exciting deals in the mobile gaming space for Black Friday. There are big discounts on mobile phones and accessories cropping up already, so you might want to get a move on things ahead of the big day. It's... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Black Friday sale for 2017: $150 Apple...
BLACK FRIDAY Apple has posted their Black Friday deals for 2017. Receive a $150 Apple gift card with the purchase of select Macs and up to $100 with various iPads, iPhones, and Apple Watches. The... Read more
Black Friday 2017: Where to find the best dea...
B&H Photo has 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off MSRP as part of the Black Friday and Holiday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only... Read more
Black Friday 2017: Where to find the best dea...
B&H Photo has 12″ MacBooks on sale for $150 off MSRP as part of the Black Friday and Holiday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 12″ 1.2GHz... Read more
Black Friday 2017: Where to find the best dea...
B&H Photo has 10.5″ iPad Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $130 off MSRP. Each iPad includes free shipping, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 10.5″ 64GB WiFi iPad Pro... Read more
Black Friday 2017: Where to find the best dea...
B&H Photo has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP as part of the Black Friday and Holiday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 13″... Read more
Black Friday 2017: Where to find the best dea...
B&H Photo has 27″ and 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP as part of the Black Friday and Holiday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 27... Read more
Black Friday 2017: Where to find the best dea...
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for $100 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday sale, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 1.4GHz Mac mini: $399 $100 off MSRP – 2.6GHz... Read more
Black Friday 2017: Find the best deals and lo...
Scan our exclusive price trackers for the latest Black Friday 2017 sales & deals and the lowest prices available on Apple Macs, iPads, and gear from Apple’s authorized resellers. We update the... Read more
Black Friday: 27″ 3.4GHz iMac for $1599, save...
Amazon has the 27″ 3.4GHz Apple iMac on sale for $1599.99 as part of their Black Friday sale. That’s $200 off MSRP, and shipping is free. Their price is currently the lowest price available for this... Read more
Black Friday: 13″ 2.3GHz/256GB MacBook Pro fo...
Amazon has the 13″ 2.3GHz/256GB Apple MacBook Pro on sale for $1299.99 as part of their Black Friday sale. Shipping is free: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXT2LL/A): $1299.99 $200... Read more

Jobs Board

Business Development Manager, *Apple* Pay -...
# Business Development Manager, Apple Pay Job Number: 112919084 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 18-Aug-2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
Digital Marketing Media Planner, *Apple* Se...
# Digital Marketing Media Planner, Apple Services Job Number: 113080212 Culver City, California, United States Posted: 03-Oct-2017 Weekly Hours: **Job Summary** Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Business Development Manager, *Apple* Pay -...
# Business Development Manager, Apple Pay Job Number: 112919084 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 18-Aug-2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 56553863 North Wales, Pennsylvania, United States Posted: 17-Jun-2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Are you passionate Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.