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Introduction to "The Java Virtual Machine Specification, Java SE 8 Edition"

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This chapter is from the book
The authors of The Java Virtual Machine Specification, Java SE 8 Edition introduce their definitive technical reference for the Java Virtual Machine.

1.1 A Bit of History

The Java® programming language is a general-purpose, concurrent, object-oriented language. Its syntax is similar to C and C++, but it omits many of the features that make C and C++ complex, confusing, and unsafe. The Java platform was initially developed to address the problems of building software for networked consumer devices. It was designed to support multiple host architectures and to allow secure delivery of software components. To meet these requirements, compiled code had to survive transport across networks, operate on any client, and assure the client that it was safe to run.

The popularization of the World Wide Web made these attributes much more interesting. Web browsers enabled millions of people to surf the Net and access media-rich content in simple ways. At last there was a medium where what you saw and heard was essentially the same regardless of the machine you were using and whether it was connected to a fast network or a slow modem.

Web enthusiasts soon discovered that the content supported by the Web’s HTML document format was too limited. HTML extensions, such as forms, only highlighted those limitations, while making it clear that no browser could include all the features users wanted. Extensibility was the answer.

The HotJava browser first showcased the interesting properties of the Java programming language and platform by making it possible to embed programs inside HTML pages. Programs are transparently downloaded into the browser along with the HTML pages in which they appear. Before being accepted by the browser, programs are carefully checked to make sure they are safe. Like HTML pages, compiled programs are network- and host-independent. The programs behave the same way regardless of where they come from or what kind of machine they are being loaded into and run on.

A Web browser incorporating the Java platform is no longer limited to a predetermined set of capabilities. Visitors to Web pages incorporating dynamic content can be assured that their machines cannot be damaged by that content. Programmers can write a program once, and it will run on any machine supplying a Java run-time environment.

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