The Java Language Environment

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4.1 Architecture Neutral

The solution that the Java system adopts to solve the binary-distribution problem is a "binary code format" that's independent of hardware architectures, operating system interfaces, and window systems. The format of this system-independent binary code is architecture neutral. If the Java run-time platform is made available for a given hardware and software environment, an application written in Java can then execute in that environment without the need to perform any special porting work for that application.

4.1.1 Byte Codes

The Java compiler doesn't generate "machine code" in the sense of native hardware instructions--rather, it generates bytecodes: a high-level, machine-independent code for a hypothetical machine that is implemented by the Java interpreter and run-time system.

One of the early examples of the bytecode approach was the UCSD P-System, which was ported to a variety of eight-bit architectures in the middle 1970s and early 1980s and enjoyed widespread popularity during the heyday of eight-bit machines. Coming up to the present day, current architectures have the power to support the bytecode approach for distributed software. Java bytecodes are designed to be easy to interpret on any machine, or to dynamically translate into native machine code if required by performance demands.

The architecture neutral approach is useful not only for network-based applications, but also for single-system software distribution. In today's software market, application developers have to produce versions of their applications that are compatible with the IBM PC, Apple Macintosh, and fifty-seven flavors of workstation and operating system architectures in the fragmented UNIX® marketplace.

With the PC market (through Windows 95 and Windows NT) diversifying onto many CPU architectures, and Apple moving full steam from the 68000 to the PowerPC, production of software to run on all platforms becomes almost impossible until now. Using Java, coupled with the Abstract Window Toolkit, the same version of your application can run on all platforms.

Copyright © 1997 Sun Microsystems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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