Posted by danese
on March 25, 2004 at 2:13 PM PST
A look at the early history of the language we now call Java shows that politics and circumstance can make birthing a language a rollercoaster ride.
I've been spending time in India lately, where my pal Brian Behlendorf and I recently met a local open source activist, Niyam Bhusan (more on Niyam another day). We got to talking about the origins of Java and being Niyam he decided to spend a few hours researching on the web. He sent me this link to a long but fun to read piece about the early days of Java (before Duke, before Oak...REALLY early days).
I thought it was an interesting piece because the story shows just how many plot twists and turns can go into the creation of something disruptive within an established organization. To people outside the organization the process can look unbelievably slow but to the establishment inside there are many factors to contend with and many minds that need to be moved. This piece also talks about some of the career-limiting heroics that go into supporting major change (a subject near and dear to my heart). Its gratifying to know that at some point James Gosling was a renegade.
In every high-tech corporation I've worked for there were stories similar to the story of Java playing out. People with iconoclastic vision were (and are) working to influence the hive-mind to see the world their way. Sometimes visionaries get their point across and sometimes not. In my experience, a major shift usually requires a combination of luck, skill, determination and planetary alignment (and a few broken bodies at the side of the road) to carry it off. Along the way the odds against the right thing happening can look overwhelming, but that doesn't mean the unwanted outcome is assured. Astonishingly, the right thing does happen a lot of the time. Somebody said at EclipseCon that getting that project launched was the result of another "planetary alignment". It happens everywhere.
And on the subject of planetary alignment , notice that for a limited time the evening sky is in fact showing us all the easily visible planets aligned. Doesn't astronomy make you and your daily struggles feel insignificant in the grander scheme of things?
So, my advice to those of you watching Java is.... stay tuned...