Don't use Emacs, says Java's father

More modern development environments increase productivity

Known in the development world as the father of Java, Sun Microsystems' vice president and fellow James Gosling has urged coders to stop using the antiquated Emacs text editor and move to a more modern IDE like Sun's own open source NetBeans.

During his keynote address at the Sydney leg of the Sun Tech Days worldwide developer conference, Gosling quizzed the audience by asking how many people "still use Emacs?"

When a few dozen people raised their arms in support of the 30-year-old editor, Gosling said "just stop!", much to the amusement of the audience.

"In a former life I was responsible for the first version of Emacs on Unix [Gosling Emacs]," Gosling said. "Emacs was a really great idea in the seventies and one of the frightening things about Emacs today is if you skip the last 20 years it is much the same."

The popular open source GNU Emacs has been under development since 1984 by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation.

Gosling said the GNU folks "added syntax highlighting", but it is still "very much the same" and is in no way keeping up with Moore's Law for computing power.

Gosling recommended the diehard Emacs users take a look at Sun's NetBeans IDE, which "fits together" components well and there was "a lot of work done in the GUI editing" for the recent version 6 release.

"NetBeans is a nice framework for building applications and we've done a lot of work on the enterprise side with components like AJAX that works together and ties in with SOA," he said, adding there are also a lot of mobility features in NetBeans.

While NetBeans is open source, Gosling said almost nobody bothers to modify its code because of its complexity.

On the server side, Gosling said the GlassFish J2EE application server has been a success for Sun over the past three years.

"It's a really high-performance app server and used in really large mission-critical apps," he said. "People are doing all the heavy stuff. Version 3 is coming soon and they have restructured the guts of it so it is really modular. It will be less than 100,000 lines of code so it's only what you need."

During the Q&A session, Gosling was asked if he always introduces himself as the father of Java.

"No f**king way!" He said. "People call me that because it pisses me off."

While Gosling wrote the original virtual machine specification and Java compiler, he said Java has really been a labour of love for a lot of people.

"Since then people who actually know what they are doing have worked on it," he said. "Java has many fathers and mothers."

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