James Gosling created Java. That pretty much says it all. Despite rumors to the contrary, Java did not start out as a pet project he was working on at home. In fact, Gosling and a group of half a dozen Sun Microsystems Inc. employees began work on "The Green Project," a mission so secret that its members moved to an off-site work space. Few people at Sun even knew about it.
The Green Project was charted to look into issues that were likely to be important to Sun over the next five or ten years. The team quickly homed in on consumer electronics because all of the electronics stuff had digital circuits inside, and it became obvious that almost everything imaginable would have digital circuitry, says Gosling.
The group built a prototype device, a remote control for just about anything. "As we were building stuff, it became real clear that one of the obstacles to the whole endeavor was the programming language and the tools that we were using to build the software," he said. "So my part of the project was to go off and solve the tool problem, and that's where Java came from."
Gosling's initial vision was a lot like the way Java is now being used: Sun was building networks of big and little things connected together in a heterogeneous, distributed environment. "Java does the best in situations where there is a network -- [where] things are very dynamic, things have to evolve -- where you're really concerned about reliability," Gosling explains.
"The vision for Java is to be the concrete and nails that people use to build this incredible network system that is happening all around us."
Java is undoubtedly one of the premiere technologies merging business and technology, particularly with Sun's recent push to put Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) into wireless handsets. This platform enables users to dynamically access and respond to Web content such as e-mail or stock quotes. But Gosling maintains that technology and business have always gone hand in hand.
"Technology and business have been merged since they came into existence. People started cross-breeding grasses to come up with wheat. Guttenberg inventing printing was all about saving himself from bankruptcy. Technology and business have always been together; there is nothing unusual about Java in that respect."
Gosling says that he spends most of his time these days concentrating on developer tools. Accompanying Moore's law is the fact that as the processors get faster the systems also become more complex. Gosling spends his time focusing on what can be done with tools to deal with today's massively complex systems.
"I'm a software engineer. I love writing software as my day job."
Current position: Vice president and fellow, Sun MicrosystemsTechnology predictions: Wireless embedded devices and the intersection of Java and cell phones