As experts in our field (or soon to become experts) it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.  While I was doing some research on Java and its history I stumbled across some old articles detailing the seemingly bright future ahead for Java.  Stock exchange tickers?  Weather maps in motion?  All just a twinkle in our eye in 1996:

“By now, you’re probably feeling a caffeine buzz from hearing about Java, Sun Microsystems Inc.’s programming language for Internet applets and interactive desktop animation.

What’s with all those other coffee-flavored products pouring into the marketplace–HotJava, JavaScript, Roaster, Espresso and more? And what are government sites doing with them?

The answer so far is very little. You can visit places like Leigh Brookshaw’s resource page at http://www-igpp.llnl. gov/people/brookshaw/java/ at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to see how Java can be used for graph plotting.

Brian Millar, a network analyst at the Air Force’s Rome Laboratory in New York, has built a multimedia introduction to the lab with Java. Visitors with Java-enabled browsers can see extra buttons and graphics. But Millar told me he doesn’t plan to maintain it and may even remove it from the server. Look fast–it’s at http://155.244.30.103:8080/ javafacility.html.

Then there’s an engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington working on a Java page where users can literally listen to a satellite. There’s no address to share; it’s not ready yet.

As you can tell, these pages are experimental. Virtually no one in the government has a heavily maintained, active Java site. Java isn’t taking off as rapidly as straight Hypertext Markup Language documents on the Web because Java development is a time-consuming business best left to programmers.

Possibilities for it, of course, are endless. Imagine visiting the House or Senate Web sites and seeing constantly updated still images of the action on the floor. That sort of thing already can be done using the “server push” function on Web servers. But server push is jerky and unreliable; Java is much smoother.

Wall Street peek

How about a stock ticker-like stream of data at the Securities and Exchange Commission site? Or weather maps in motion at the National Weather Service? Or a steady stream of crop predictions on an Agriculture Department page?

Today, that would be a royal maintenance headache because Java is difficult to use. But that will change. Here are some terms going through the grinder in Javaland.

Java is an object-oriented, multithreaded programming language Sun originally developed for handheld computer devices communicating over networks. Users say Java’s not much different from C++, except that it’s platform-independent.”

McCarthy, Shawn P. “Java’s difficulty goes down bitter, but new tools may add cream.” Government Computer News 19 Feb. 1996: 37+.

Do you have any Java memories?  Post them in the comments below.