J2SE 5.0 Out of the Cage

By Jon Byous and Mary Smaragdis, October 2004  

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An AMD64 Opteron chip powers this Sun Java Workstation running the Sun Java Desktop System and JDK 5.0
An AMD64 Opteron chip powers this Sun Java Workstation running the Sun Java Desktop System and JDK 5.0

Computer History Museum

Next, James Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language, thanked everyone for coming and, in his usual manner, offered most of the credit for J2SE 5.0 to the many teams who spent so many long days and nights bringing it to life. "I was allowed to be a kibitzer." While this release incorporates the combined teamwork of 15 Java Specification Request (JSR) expert groups, Gosling gave special credit to the accomplishments of the generics team, led by Gilad Bracha. "The Generics JSR is one of the longest-running and toughest JSRs. Generics is the closest that Bill Joy and I came to physical violence." Gosling urged the audience to get involved in helping make the next release, even better. "This community is all about participation."

Grab a Drink and Enjoy the Evening

After warm applause, attendees strolled through the museum's exhibits, from the Apple-1 mounted on a plywood base to early IBM disk drives and other frighteningly large peripherals. Sun even had a display of its own for the event: a new Sun Java Workstation and flat-screen monitor displaying the Sun Java Desktop System and JDK 5.0, powered by an AMD64 Opteron chip. The attendees were a cheerful and loud collection of J2SE 5.0 contributors, licensees, and customers.

Mario Guerrieri, eight-year-old Java enthusiast, and his dad came to meet James Gosling.
Mario Guerrieri, eight-year-old Java enthusiast, and his dad came to meet James Gosling.

Neal Gafter covers multiple categories. He was a Sun software engineer until just two months ago. For several years, he implemented language features in the Java compiler, including enums and autoboxing. He was named by Gosling this evening as an important contributor on the generics team. Now he's a software engineer at Google. "At Google, we're using J2SE 5.0 and it's very nice," he said. "We started the process of trying out our products on the new release a few weeks ago. It's faster, it's more stable, and the new language features are wonderful. We expect to migrate quickly. We're trying it first in the advertising front end."

At the other end of the spectrum is Mario Guerrieri. He's an eight-year-old beginning programmer who "loves Java programming, and programming in general." He learned basic programming skills at a summer camp at Stanford University and mostly builds games using StageCast Creator. He and his dad came to the event to shake hands with James Gosling.

Borland on Board

Vlad Patryshed, a Java software engineer at Borland, was quite impressed with J2SE 5.0. He's been working with early releases of "Tiger" since before the JavaOne Developers Conference in June. Vlad especially likes the annotation and generics functions, and the way Enterprise Java Beans 3.0 are handled. "This release changes the face of Java programming. It moves the art of programming into a science."

His colleague at Borland, Vladislav Protasov, is an R&D engineer who added that this is a "huge step for the Java platform, a big move." He noted that the new Borland JBuilder 2005 supports J2SE 5.0 and is available for downloads.

As a customer, Slava Imeshev is a software architect at STLPort. "We do logistics trade management software, and I think this is the best language on the market. I'm very pleased. I work on the server side, and I especially like the generics and auto-boxing." His associate at Trabeam, Jyothi Umma, agrees, "There are a lot of new pieces here. It's very cool."

The East Coast Approves

In New York, Edgar Holcomb, a software architect, said, "I'm excited about generic types, numerate types, the new threading model. These are some of the things that have been sorely lacking, and I'm glad that they're included now. It raises the Java platform to a new level."

Other New York attendees had positive reviews:

"I like it," said Bary Burd, "Java 2 for Dummies" author and Drew University professor. "I like it a lot. They really revamped the language itself but they did it in a way that is so thoughtful. They were careful not to add complexity in introducing so many new features."

Iain Alexander, a Java developer at Tomson Financial, said, "The thing that I'm most excited about is the built-in thread pooling that's part of the concurrent utility. That's pretty sophisticated functionality coming right out of the box."

"It's excellent," said Max Zeleznak, a Java developer at CitiGroup. "I've been following it for a while. People have been clamoring for a couple of the new features that are in this release. We have been waiting for a while -- especially with enumerators. It takes an extra 5-10 lines of code for each enumerator. Now it's a lot simpler, shorter, easier to read. It makes my headaches go away."

Zelenak added: "The speed increases are nice. One of the understated features of the 5.0 release is the GUI, which most people complained was the slowest part of the Java platform. Now you can use Open GL extension, which allows you to use the graphic card extensions to speed up GUI interfaces. Now it's done in software through the processor and can use the graphics card that is dedicated to it. Graphic cards are much better at rendering than CPUs are."

In fact, most attendees at both events seemed equally enthused. Tim Bell, a Sun J2SE engineering and serviceability engineer, explained, "This is a big milestone that adds serviceability and APIs that are missing and missed by many in previous releases. For example, it opens the way to move away from the old profiling interface. The new JVM Tool Interface works much better and is scalable. And monitoring and management is also much improved through JConsole."

It is true that this release surpasses previous versions in quality, stability, robustness, compatibility, performance, scalability, desktop look-and-feel, ease of development, and XML support.

The Cooperation and Best Efforts of Many

Onno Kluyt, director of the Java Community Process (JCP) and Jini Technology, commented on the enormous community contribution required to create this release. "The 15 component JSRs represented in J2SE 5.0 are almost 20 percent of the total active JSRs," he said. "It shows how a lot of people in a variety of companies can work together to produce a high-quality, large-scale software product. Probably over one thousand people worked to produce this release."

Ten minutes before the launch, tags and goodie bags ready.
Ten minutes before the launch, tags and goodie bags ready.

He said the JCP is already doing preliminary work on the next release, and thinking about the one after that, Dolphin. He laughed with a bit of relief as he said, "But they won't be the significant change to the platform that this release has been."

As the evening ended, each guest took home a gift bag containing a copy of the "Java Everywhere in Action" book, Java Desktop System software, a Java T-shirt, and a stuffed Tiger keychain, among other goodies.

It was a good night.

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