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

Ableton Live 9.7.1 - Record music using...
Ableton Live lets you create and record music on your Mac. Use digital instruments, pre-recorded sounds, and sampled loops to arrange, produce, and perform your music like never before. Ableton Live... Read more
FileZilla 3.23.0.2 - Fast and reliable F...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.23.0.2: Bug Fixes and Minor Changes Speed up icon... Read more
Vivaldi 1.5.658.56 - An advanced browser...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
Safari Technology Preview 10.1 - The new...
Safari Technology Preview contains the most recent additions and improvements to WebKit and the latest advances in Safari web technologies. And once installed, you will receive notifications of... Read more
TunnelBear 3.0.8 - Subscription-based pr...
TunnelBear is a subscription-based virtual private network (VPN) service and companion app, enabling you to browse the internet privately and securely. Features Browse privately - Secure your data... Read more
NeoFinder 7.0 - Catalog your external me...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs all your data, so you stay in control of your data archive or disk... Read more
Coda 2.6 - One-window Web development su...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few surprises... Read more
File Juicer 4.51 - Extract images, video...
File Juicer is a drag-and-drop can opener and data archaeologist. Its specialty is to find and extract images, video, audio, or text from files which are hard to open in other ways. In computer... Read more
PDFpenPro 8.3 - $124.95
PDFpenPro allows users to edit PDF's easily. Add text, images and signatures. Fill out PDF forms. Merge or split PDF documents. Reorder and delete pages. Create fillable forms and tables of content... Read more
PDFpen 8.3 - $74.95
PDFpen allows users to easily edit PDF's. Add text, images and signatures. Fill out PDF forms. Merge or split PDF documents. Reorder and delete pages. Even correct text and edit graphics! Features... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Niantic teases new Pokémon announcement...
After rumors started swirling yesterday, it turns out there is an official Pokémon GO update on its way. We’ll find out what’s in store for us and our growing Pokémon collections tomorrow during the Starbucks event, but Niantic will be revealing... | Read more »
3 reasons why Nicki Minaj: The Empire is...
Nicki Minaj is as business-savvy as she is musically talented and she’s proved that by launching her own game. Designed by Glu, purveyors of other fine celebrity games like cult favorite Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Nicki Minaj: The Empire launched... | Read more »
Clash of Clans is getting its own animat...
Riding on its unending wave of fame and success, Clash of Clans is getting an animated web series based on its Clash-A-Rama animated shorts.As opposed to the current shorts' 60 second run time, the new and improved Clash-A-Rama will be comprised of... | Read more »
Leaks hint at Pokémon GO and Starbucks C...
Leaked images from a hub for Starbucks employees suggests that a big Pokémon GO event with the coffee giant could begin this very week. The images appeared on Reddit and hint at some exciting new things to come for Niantic's smash hit game. | Read more »
Silent Depth Submarine Simulation (Game...
Silent Depth Submarine Simulation 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Enneas Saga lets you lead your own demon...
Defend the land of Enneas Continent from the forces of evil in the new fantasy MMORPG from Lyto Mobi: Enneas Saga. Can’t wait? No problem. It’s available to download now on Android devices. | Read more »
Great zombie games in the spirit of Dead...
Dead Rising 4 arrives tomorrow, giving enthusiasts a fresh chance to take selfies with zombies and get up to other ridiculous end-of-the-world shenanigans. To really get into the spirit of things, we've gone and gathered the best zombie games that... | Read more »
Amateur Surgeon 4 Guide: Advanced tips a...
Amateur Surgeon 4 is still tackling the competition at the top of the App Store charts, so if you haven't tried it out yet, you should probably do that right away. If you've been at it for a while, though, perhaps you're ready to start expanding... | Read more »
Amateur Surgeon 4 Guide: Become the worl...
It's time to wield your trusty pizza cutter again, as Amateur Surgeon has returned with a whole fresh set of challenges (and some old, familiar ones, too). Starting anew isn't easy, especially when all you have at your disposal is a lighter, the... | Read more »
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire (Ga...
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Back in stock: Apple refurbished Mac minis fr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
Twenty-Five Years Of Apple Laptops – A person...
Among many other things, the often tumultuous 16th year of the new century marked the 25th anniversary of Apple laptop computers, not counting the optimistically named 16-pound Mac Portable of 1989.... Read more
Landlordy iOS App Adds Support For Appliances...
Riga, Latvia based E-protect SIA is releasing major update (version 1.8) to its Landlordy app for managing rental business financials on the go. Landlordy is iPhone and iPad app designed for self-... Read more
Holiday sale, Apple iMacs for up to $200 off...
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ Apple iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2099 $200 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $... Read more
Holiday sale: Mac minis for $50 to $100 off M...
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $629 $70 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini: $899 $... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP, ref...
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2799, $200 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3699, $... Read more
12-inch WiFi Apple iPad Pros on sale for up t...
B&H Photo has 12″ WiFi Apple iPad Pros on sale for up to $50 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 12″ Space Gray 32GB WiFi iPad Pro: $749 $50 off MSRP... Read more
9-inch Apple WiFi iPad Pros on sale for $20-$...
B&H Photo has 9.7″ Apple WiFi iPad Pros on sale for $20-$50 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 9″ Space Gray 256GB WiFi iPad Pro: $779.95 $20 off MSRP... Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 15-inch MacBook Pros a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ Retina MacBook Pros available starting at $1699. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro... Read more
Back in stock! 13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook...
Apple has Apple Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pros (MF839LL/A) available again for $1099 including free shipping. That’s $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Philade...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- San Ant...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Products Tester Needed - Apple (Unit...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
SW Engineer *Apple* TV Frameworks - Apple I...
The Apple TV team is looking for a software...create features that reflect the look and feel of Apple TV. Description: Were looking for someone who is Read more
Hardware Design Validation Engineer - *Apple...
The Apple Watch team is looking for a Hardware Design Validation Engineer. This person will be part of the Apple Watch hardware team with responsibilities for Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.