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“C++ with some fixes” – Java turns 20

On the 23rd of May 1995, Java 1.0a2 was officially made available to download.

Integrated into Netscape’s Navigator browser and developed with dynamic content and animation support in mind, Java took off like wildfire and its status as the official language of the World Wide Web soon followed. Not bad for a programming language that founder James Gosling originally thought would “Just be C++ with some fixes.”

The features that cemented Java’s popularity in 1995 – powerful, easy to use, cross-platform, network-centric – are the ones that make it one of the world’s most popular languages today (currently second only to JavaScript in the Redmonk language rankings).

Works everywhere

From enterprise middleware and application servers to embedded computing, real-time applications and the Blu-Ray disc standard, Java’s ubiquity makes it as good a tech career option today as it was in the early days of the Internet – originally developed for use in embedded computing, Java will definitely play a significant role in innovation around the Internet of Things.

It’s central role in both Cloud and Big Data add another layer of future proofing for the tech career minded.

Ironically, given its role in a fast-past Internet environment, Java’s own official evolution path hasn’t always been the speediest. Attempts to make it more modular and flexible have been in the pipeline since 2011 and are not now expected until 2016’s Java 9 release. During this time, the decline in browser plug-ins and general Java usage in the browser have done little to halt its use elsewhere.

Still got the skill

According to Oracle, Java is downloaded one billion times a year and is used on 97 per cent of enterprise desktops. Small wonder an estimated nine million Java developers are making a good living out of it – Java developers and software engineers are in high demand in tech hubs such as Berlin, Cork, Dublin and London. Indeed, FierceCio.com listed Java Developer as one of 2015’s “Top 10 Hottest Jobs in IT.”

Programming languages come and go, but with so many enterprises depending on it and a massive Android mobile ecosystem, Java looks set to join C++ and COBOL as a core tech skill that will stand the test of time. The way things stand, it seems likely that it will be as relevant on its 40th birthday as it is at 20, even if it doesn’t quite look the same.

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