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

DaisyDisk 4.8 - $9.99
DaisyDisk allows you to visualize your disk usage and free up disk space by quickly finding and deleting big unused files. The program scans your disk and displays its content as a sector diagram... Read more
VMware Fusion 11.5.0 - Run Windows apps...
VMware Fusion and Fusion Pro - virtualization software for running Windows, Linux, and other systems on a Mac without rebooting. The latest version includes full support for Windows 10, macOS Mojave... Read more
Apple Configurator 2.10 - Configure and...
Apple Configurator makes it easy to deploy iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV devices in your school or business. Use Apple Configurator to quickly configure large numbers of devices connected to... Read more
Spotify 1.1.15.448. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
MenuMeters 1.9.8 - CPU, memory, disk, an...
MenuMeters is a set of CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring tools for Mac OS X. Although there are numerous other programs which do the same thing, none had quite the feature set I was looking... Read more
Blocks 3.5.2 - RapidWeaver plug-in; divi...
Blocks is a plugin for RapidWeaver. It allows you to place blocks of text, graphics, and even raw HTML onto your page wherever you like. Drag blocks around, resize them, and even overlap content. All... Read more
Live Home 3D Pro 3.7 - $49.99
Live Home 3D Pro is powerful yet intuitive home design software that lets you build the house of your dreams right on your Mac, iPhone or iPad. It has every feature of Live Home 3D, plus some... Read more
Ableton Live 10.1.1 - 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
BetterTouchTool 3.202 - Customize multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom)... Read more
Fission 2.4.6 - Streamlined audio editor...
Fission can crop and trim audio, paste in or join files, or just rapidly split one long file into many. It's streamlined for fast editing. Plus, it works without the quality loss caused by other... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Marvel Strike Force is adding Agent Coul...
Marvel Strike Force, the popular squad-based RPG, is set to receive a bunch of new content over the next few weeks. [Read more] | Read more »
Lots of premium games are going free (so...
You may have seen over the past couple weeks a that a bunch of premium games have suddenly become free. This isn’t a mistake, nor is it some last hurrah before Apple Arcade hits, and it’s important to know that these games aren’t actually becoming... | Read more »
Yoozoo Games launches Saint Seiya Awaken...
If you’re into your anime, you’ve probably seen or heard of Saint Seiya. Based on a shonen manga by Masami Kurumada, the series was massively popular in the 1980s – especially in its native Japan. Since then, it’s grown into a franchise of all... | Read more »
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special...
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special Delivery is a terrifying new nightmare from developer Illumix. Last week, FNAF fans were sent into a frenzy by a short teaser for what we now know to be Special Delivery. Those in the comments were quick to... | Read more »
Rush Rally 3's new live events are...
Last week, Rush Rally 3 got updated with live events, and it’s one of the best things to happen to racing games on mobile. Prior to this update, the game already had multiplayer, but live events are more convenient in the sense that it’s somewhat... | Read more »
Why your free-to-play racer sucks
It’s been this way for a while now, but playing Hot Wheels Infinite Loop really highlights a big issue with free-to-play mobile racing games: They suck. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying going for realism, cart racing, or arcade nonsense, they’re... | Read more »
Steam Link Spotlight - The Banner Saga 3
Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry talked about Terry Cavanaugh’s incredible Dicey Dungeons. Read about how it’s a great mobile experience... | Read more »
Combo Quest (Games)
Combo Quest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Combo Quest is an epic, time tap role-playing adventure. In this unique masterpiece, you are a knight on a heroic quest to retrieve... | Read more »
Hero Emblems (Games)
Hero Emblems 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** 25% OFF for a limited time to celebrate the release ** ** Note for iPhone 6 user: If it doesn't run fullscreen on your device... | Read more »
Puzzle Blitz (Games)
Puzzle Blitz 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Puzzle Blitz is a frantic puzzle solving race against the clock! Solve as many puzzles as you can, before time runs out! You have... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Get one of Apple’s new 2019 iPhone 11 models...
Boost Mobile is offering the new 2019 Apple iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max for $100 off MSRP. Their discount reduces the cost of an iPhone 11 to $599 for the 64GB models, $899 for the 64GB... Read more
13″ 1.4GHz Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has new 2019 13″ 1.4GHz 4-Core Touch Bar Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP. Overnight shipping is free to many addresses in the US. These are the same MacBook Pros... Read more
4-core and 6-core 2018 Mac minis available at...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 Mac minis available on their online store for $120-$170 off the cost of new models. Each mini comes with a new outer case plus a standard Apple one-year warranty... Read more
$250 prepaid Visa card with any Apple iPhone,...
Xfinity Mobile will include a free $250 prepaid Visa card with the purchase of any new iPhone, new line activation, and transfer of phone number to Xfinity Mobile. Offer is valid through October 27,... Read more
Sprint is offering the 64GB Apple iPhone 11 P...
Sprint has the new 64GB iPhone 11 Pro available for $12.50 per month for new customers with an eligible trade-in in of iPhone 7 or newer. That’s down from their standard monthly lease of $41.67. The... Read more
Final week: Apple’s 2019 Back to School Promo...
Purchase a new Mac using Apple’s Education discount, and take up to $400 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution with a .edu email address qualify for the discount... Read more
Save $30 on Apple’s AirPods at these reseller...
Amazon is offering discounts on new 2019 Apple AirPods ranging up to $30 off MSRP as part of their Labor Day sale. Shipping is free: – AirPods with Charging Case: $144.95 $15 off MSRP – AirPods with... Read more
Preorder your Apple Watch Series 5 today at A...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 5 GPS models available for preorder and on sale today for $15 off Apple’s MSRP. Shipping is free and starts on September 20th: – 40mm Apple Watch Series 5 GPS: $384.99 $... Read more
21″ iMacs on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP,...
B&H Photo has new 21″ Apple iMacs on sale for $100 off MSRP with models available starting at $999. These are the same iMacs offered by Apple in their retail and online stores. Overnight shipping... Read more
2018 4 and 6-Core Mac minis on sale today for...
Apple resellers are offering new 2018 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis for $100-$150 off MSRP for a limited time. B&H Photo has the new 2018 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis on sale for up to $150 off... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**732324BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 000013-Fargo-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Read more
*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**723452BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001194-Greeley-Store **Job Description:** At Best Buy, our Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**731319BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 000303-Arlington Heights-Store **Job Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**733266BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000144-Union City-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Read more
Geek Squad *Apple* Master Consultation Agen...
**732907BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Apple Master Consultation Agent **Job Category:** Services/Installation/Repair **Location Number:** 000360-Williston-Store Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.