Java and Platform Independency
Mar 29, 2012
Necessity is the mother of invention. Computer languages are not an exception to this rule. However, there are as many as 1600 different computer languages as they say. Did all these languages have necessities? Yes. But the importance of the necessities differ. At the least it had a necessity to satisfy its own designer. When a language satisfies a big need of numerous people, it remains, others wash away or limited to particular community. Java is one such language which was designed for something and outgrown into something invincible.
C++ was almost a perfect object oriented language. So Java’s objective is not a more perfect OO Language. The issue that caused Java to originate is the variety of microprocessors that started to emerge at that time. Previous languages were platform specific. For each platform you have to code a little different from the others. Java wanted to address this problem. Green team of Sun Microsystems wanted to create Java as a platform independent language. By doing so, Java can incorporate itself into any embedded system, making the development of embedded system easy and portable as well.
But is that possible? Till then the most successful languages were using compiler to convert them into object codes that are executable in a particular platform. So to make platform independency possible, they have to change this methodology itself and they indeed did that to achieve platform independency which is why we call Java a technology rather than a language.
Java is compiled and interpreted. It may sound strange. Till the advent of Java, a language is either compiled or interpreted but not both. Why this new method was brought in? A variety of microprocessors started to emerge and each one had its own machine language. Moreover they had different length of registers to store the data as well. If you compile your program into a particular machine language it will not be supported by other machines. So the green team decided to compile Java programs into a common machine language named Bytecode. Bytecode cannot be run by the microprocessors directly as no microprocessor knows that language. Hence we need an interpreter to interpret Bytecode into the local machine language. They brought the concept of virtual machine to achieve this. Java Virtual Machine is a system software that can understand the bytecode and interpret it to the lower level machine. Responsibilities of the JVM are a lot more than an interpreter which is out of scope of over topic.
The above picture represents the traditional compile and run technique. There are two platforms A and B ( Call it Pulse and Sawtooth ). An application which is compiled for Platform A cannot fit the environment of Platform B. Thus its not platform independent, and you have to adjust your program for the new Platform.
Java overcomes the problem with the above model. Java applications are not compiled to any specific platform. They are compiled to the Bytecode which will be interpreted by JVM to the underlying platform. One more thing to notice is, JVMs have to be implemented for each platform to run Bytecode on that platform. This indeed is an issue. But Sun Microsystems made the Java Virtual Machine Specification available to everyone with which the JVM can be implemented to any platform easily. JVM Specification and Java language is designed simpler in order to make the JVM implementation simpler. It can be implemented to a minimum size of 680 KB! So that it can run on smaller chips and cell phones.
When Java came into picture, internet has started to spread tremendously. Internet is a network of different platforms, so Java being platform independent found itself easy to become the prime technology for web.
This alone is not the success of Java. Though C++ has all the object oriented features, Java wanted to make it simple and unambiguous. It removed all the confusing, unambiguous and non-productive features from C++, making it the simplest implementation of best OO features.
Java runs in PCs, mobile phones, set top boxes, smart cards, robots and everywhere. Java developers are the largest in numbers. Be proud to be a Java developer. Enjoy developing without limits.