What Was Sun Microsystems’ Java Software Platform First Designed For?
Answer: Smart Appliances
Java began at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s as an internal project intended to provide an alternative to the C++/C programming languages. The project was originally called Oak (after, simply enough, the big oak tree outside the development office) and the team focused on creating a new generation of programming language for smart appliances like interactive cable boxes.
The first demonstration of the Java Software Platform in action was in October 1992. The development team showed off a home-centric PDA that could control and automate settings around the house. The device was dubbed Star7 (*7) and sported an animated mascot named Duke—seen here. The Star7 (*7) project never saw the light of day—it was a bit ahead of its time—but Duke stuck around as the official Java mascot.
The Java team went on to develop and pitch a computer-based set-top box to Time Warner which, although Time Warner had put out a call for such a device, was rejected by the cable giant. After failing to generate interest in the television industry for a set-top computer, Java found its niche: web browsers.
The team had originally wanted to work with set-top boxes because they were interested in working with a highly interactive medium across a broad network; clearly, the internet was much more interactive and much further reaching. They created an in-house prototype browser called WebRunner, which was later renamed to HotJava. By 1995, Sun had partnered with Netscape, and Netscape Communicator began shipping with Java support. The rest, as they say, is history. The Java Runtime Environment is now found on hundreds of millions of computers and mobile devices, and used in a wide array of applications from simple applets to entire games like the best-selling sandbox game, Minecraft.
Image courtesy of Sun Microsystems.