|By Joe Winchester||
|July 26, 2008 10:15 AM EDT||
Before Java I was a Smalltalk guy. I remember switching from one language to the other and the tipping point that you reach when you’ve mastered the new language and how many months it takes, not to mention the years, to do really good design and know-how, which patterns to apply and how to avoid mistakes, understand performance issues, and so forth. I recently had to look at some Smalltalk code and realized that after spending a period away it was hard to figure out what to do – I definitely wouldn’t call myself a competent Smalltalk programmer anymore.
What’s my point? I think that it’s possible to be a master of only one language – either that or a Jack of all languages and a master of none. I like a nice simple flat world with only one language. Communication is easier and everyone can enjoy the shared experience it brings rather than having to constantly switch back and forth. When Java first came out, there was a rearguard action by the virtual machine guys to make Java run on Smalltalk virtual machines that, while they had pretty cool technology called the Universal Virtual Machine (UVM), was probably a sort of denial move to protect Smalltalk’s turf. It’s there in theory so people don’t have to switch syntax, but in practice it was a nightmare to code with JNI to bridge the two and a lot of horrible datatype conversion between primitive language types. To code Smalltalk running under Java or vice-versa you needed to be a master of both languages as well as have a strong head when it came to debugging virtual machine registries and heap stacks. Ugh.
The Microsoft guys, after initially bashing Java for years as being slow because it’s interpreted bytecodes rather than fully compiled, an accusation that’s mostly FUD because of JIT compilers and the fact that most Redmond languages compile to interpreted p-codes anyway, now preach the common language runtime (CLR) as the holy grail of programming. It’s not unlike the Smalltalk/Java hybrid UVM. In fact it’s exactly like it – it just happens to run Microsoft languages on it. It doesn’t have a lot of traction since it came out.
What bothers me now is that there seems to be a resurgence of the idea that virtual machines can do anything. Rather than focus on Java and what the language needs to move it forward, there is a lot of hoopla and fanfare about making JVMs to run Ruby, PHP, or other equally trendy languages, as well as technologies like Java FX, which itself abstracts programming to an even higher and utterly non-Java syntax. If this all occurs, what do we have left? We have a virtual machine that can run Java but can run other languages as well; we have languages that compile to Java but aren’t authored in Java; and we have something that has lost its value proposition and is now all but indistinguishable from its Redmond counterpart. In other words, we’ve lost the plot. For those of us who have to write code, I still maintain that having to be fluent and versant in lots of languages just isn’t that possible in practice and we’ll end up with lots of second-rate programmers writing poorly performing and badly designed code, not to mention the debugging nightmare as context and language switches occur all over the place at runtime. What’s it all for? Because the other languages are dynamic, or because the other languages are better for the web, or whatever? We should be fixing these in Java, not doing VM hacks and increasing complexity just to embrace these other languages that didn’t even exist a few years ago. There is nothing wrong with Java as a language that we can’t fix. I really believe this is where the focus of attention should be, rather than bloat and hack the JVM to become a Jack of all trades that will ultimately make the Java language suffer the same fate the Smalltalk language did.
History has awonderful habit of repeating itself, and if we don’t back Java as a language, rather than some kind of nebulous “Java technology” thing, we’re just dooming it to incognizance by diluting it with other languages and just increasing the entropy required to build good software.
|Baruch Atta 07/25/08 01:20:33 PM EDT|
My comment is that good coding shouldn't be cryptic, that is, hard to understand and write. Elegant code should be readable, and in essence, be easy to write. Unfortunately, the Java world is moving in the opposite direction, by adding complexity to the language and it's frameworks. It's a full time job just to stay abreast of the "new" developments in the language. And, for the most part, all this "new" stuff rarely adds anything that is not already available in other languages or frameworks. So, the Comp Sci department should look to the English department, and "simplify, clarify, and condense".
|jelly 07/24/08 03:37:33 PM EDT|
"It doesn’t have a lot of traction since it came out."
HAHAHA, now who's spreading FUD? Trashing .Net won't save Java, pal.
|Ruben Martin 07/24/08 09:19:09 AM EDT|
I completely agree with you. The Java language should be the center of the Java community. If we want the language to be more dynamic (whatever that means) we have to work to build that feature into the own language. What's the point in learning a new language over and over again just because it has a new cool feature?
On the other hand, the Java language has to react faster to the changes of the IT community. Maybe that could be achieved by having a faster language extension mechanism.
Good programming is difficult, expensive and requires a lot of experience. We cannot be changing from one language to the other to suffer the same old nightmare everytime.
|Rajesh Kumar Raj 07/21/08 02:31:23 AM EDT|
|Tommy 07/19/08 07:23:57 AM EDT|
I simply do not agree on many parts:
|George Birbilis 07/08/08 05:11:42 PM EDT|
CLR doesn't have enough traction? Well, apart from the classic .NET on Windows checkout the "mono" project or Silverlight, XNA (on XBox and Zune) over .NET Compact Framework (also on Windows Mobile) etc.
|Thierry Coq 07/03/08 03:36:11 AM EDT|
Well, I don't sympathize at all with the author. We've had this junk all before:
There a variety of languages because it's needed: languages are designed for different purposes, they are like tools.
Come on, grow up. Many languages are good for the competition, and they address different needs. And a good designer benefits from knowing different languages and their styles. It broadens the available solutions. And sometimes, what people think good programming other people think bad programming (think pointer arithmetic in C/C++, for example!)
|Neil Crow 07/01/08 05:10:43 PM EDT|
Interesting thoughts, I was contemplating similar points earlier on my way home from work. But I can't say that I reached a similar conclusion, the crux against the argument is that the language is a very difficult thing to change, adding API's is trivial in comparison.
One of the biggest gaping holes at the moment is the lack of first class closures in java.
If the development community were to wait for the language and the JVM to change to support this, that would be a very long wait.
Lastly, I agree with Craig that the framework bloat is a problem. This affects project ramp up time, while halfway though choosing your technology stack, the .net projects are already developing using what they have got because they've got less to choose from.
I would like to see java improved, but I shudder to imagine a world where the "CORE" controls the kinds of innovations that are allowed. Frankly I don't think that it can be improved fast enough to keep up with the demands of the development community; by its nature, the core language has to be behind the curve of innovation.
|Jason Rogers 07/01/08 11:26:21 AM EDT|
What?!?! Structured Query LANGUAGE isn't a language? I agree markups aren't languages per se, but SQL?
FWIW: SQL _can_ loop, iterate, branch, etc. I wouldn't suggest that interfacing with the OS is a necessity of a language -- the toolkits on top of the language are a must, but not the language itself.
You're still off a bit -- but perhaps it's time to agree to disagree. :)
|Craig 06/30/08 11:08:38 PM EDT|
Joe, I agree with you -- and to make a parallel point, we're also getting overloaded with frameworks within Java. Dozens of them. This is where the .NET folks will really come in for the kill, because developers won't have to learn so many different, competing technologies to get their work done...
|Joe Winchester 06/29/08 05:26:44 PM EDT|
Wow, I had no idea that my piece would attract flame from the "Microsoft CLR Rules" guys. Glad to know you're still out there, take care.
|Jason Rogers 06/27/08 09:24:49 AM EDT|
I see you've already been bashed here a lot, so I won't take too much time to do it again. However, I will say that the JVM-as-a-platform is not about being able to program in Java and some other language. It's about being able to program in some other (better) language and just leverage the work done in the JVM (as well as interoperate with common Java libraries like JDBC). I program in Java, Smalltalk and Ruby. I use the JVM for Java and Ruby. When I write in Java I don't have to debug JVM stack frames. Similarly, when I write in Ruby and deploy on the JVM I don't have to debug JVM stack frames. What in the world are you talking about?!?!
|Cjeo 06/27/08 09:07:47 AM EDT|
|jack g 06/27/08 07:33:54 AM EDT|
Dude your totaly wrong!!! .Net has no traction, your an idiot! You should go back to school, by the way I was a smalltalk guy and I can work in 80' or digi or whatever no problem, I am still competent, WHY ARE YOU WRITING ARTICLES?
|JulesLt 06/27/08 04:16:32 AM EDT|
Well, some would say we do have plenty of second-rate developers developing systems without concern for performance already . . .
With my managerial hat on I really can see the advantages of a flat landscape - it makes people far more interchangeable between projects.
On the other hand, while I can see the advantages of having a lingua franca, I've never been convinced in the idea that Java is also the best language, or that the process around it selects the best options - i.e. EJBs, JDBC. There is also the fact that in a lot of cases to achieve the dynamic behaviour that is native to other languages, Java programmers typically have to resort to frameworks that utilise XML config files - for instance using Spring for dependency injection.
So you have this nice safe language and compiler - but an awful lot of your logic is in uncompiled text, from Struts action or Hibernate mappings to SQL statements in JDBC (see SQLJ or LINQ as alternative approaches), and only testable at runtime - just like dynamic languages.
|Laurent Hasson 06/26/08 11:30:08 PM EDT|
The key issue i think from your article is not about multiple languages from a syntax point of view, but from a conceptual point of view. One thing that the CLR has done well i think is to define clear conceptual language features right in the VM level. Lots of the CLR languages to feel very close and share a common conceptual base to some level. For Java however, the bytecode is more like assembly and quite low level, which to some extend may be a reason why some new language features are so hard to implement (i'll never argue that C++ templates are the most beautiful things on this earth, but Java Generics are a joke).
To put that in some example, having to write an application in Java that calls to a C++ DLL via JNI is a nightmare... But writing a Java app that calls a C++ engine through a web services stack for example is my bread and butter. So clearly, to me, the problem is not that within a day i need my brain to go back and forth between C++ and Java for example.
|Dino Chiesa 06/20/08 08:24:47 PM EDT|
It must be fun to make stuff up all the time! You can make up words like Versant, and Incognizance.
And you can make up facts, too!
Let's take the made up stuff one by one.
Ok, now the "Exactly like the UVM" comment.
But, the CLR differs from the UVM in that it was designed for multi-language support from the outset. Neither the Smalltalk VM nor the JVM share that design point. In this regard, the CLR and its bytecode ("Intermediate language") are completely UNLIKE the JVM and the Smalltalk VM which became the UVM. This multi-language capability is what enables IronRuby, F#, VB.NET, C#, COBOL, and even languages like PHP to run on the CLR.
But hey, if you're going to make stuff up, you may as well "Go Big", right?
The puzzling part is that none of those made-up facts are supportive to your main point, which is that the JVM needs to focus on Java. That's a fair position, and worth consideration. I can imagine thoughtful discourse on either side of the issue. A rational examination of risks and benefits of such a strategy would be really valuable. But I didn't see that in your piece...
|Vijay 06/20/08 05:34:36 PM EDT|
Well written article!!
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