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"A Tradition in Storytelling"

Author and Book Information

RICH STILLER (with Jos Marlowe)
ASUNDER is Richard Stiller's third  book.  His first, RIGHTFUL TERMINATION, was  co-authored with his good friend Ron Visconti and  was  published in 1995.  His second book, INFLUENCE AS  POWER, was published on the internet in 1995 and may be  the first book written specifically for the NET.  In  1997 a hard copy was published by  SunLabs. 

Richard has plenty of  business experience to draw upon having worked in Silicon  Valley since 1977.  He has spent time at  companies  such as Atari, pacific Telesis, Electronic Arts, Borland  and Sun Microsystems. 

His first love  is history, having graduated with a  degree in history and  archaeology from San Francisco State. 

Mr. Stiller  often prefers to look to the past to find paradigms for  the  present.  Hence the inspiration for ASUNDER.

ASUNDER; An Unauthorized History  of the JAVA Programming Language
Some of the readers of  "Asunder" understand the ramifications of Java.  Other may not. If you do not understand why Java  changed  the paradigm of computing, hopefully the following will  explain it well enough for the non-technical audience to  appreciate the significance of why Java is so important. 

Programmers  write programs (software applications) that make hardware  (computers, other electronic devices) perform certain  functions.  Generally the applications  access the  hardware through an operating system. The operating  system is specific to the hardware, which means that the  applications are also specific to the hardware.  In  other words, before Java, if  you wanted to write an Apple  application you wrote it to work on Apple's operating  system. And then you rewrote portions of it if you wanted  it to run on any other hardware/operating system. 

While the  industry was very young this did not pose an unreasonable  burden - there were separate markets for the users of  each brand of hardware, so porting  (translating to a  different hardware platform) was not strictly necessary.  But the main hardware vendors (Apple and Intel) pursued  different strategies: Apple offered a "closed  system" of very high  reliability and ease-of-use and  but correspondingly high cost and limited choice, whereas  Intel offered an "open system" of lower  reliability and correspondingly lower cost but with a  wide range of  choices. As time progressed, the  market-driven Intel platform improved in reliability  while the proprietary Apple platform did not improve in  variety, eventually making Intel the dominant hardware  platform.   

Microsoft wrote  the operating system for the Intel platform, and the  first user-friendly release (which copied many of the  same ideas  that Apple had copied from Xerox) was named  "Windows."  Microsoft made Windows a  closed system over which Microsoft had complete control.  If you wanted to write an application for the PC you   wrote it to run on Windows to Microsoft's specifications.  The specifications changed from release to release so you  spent a considerable amount of time re-writing your  application so that it would run on the  latest release of  Windows. 

Then the  Internet exploded and people wanted more choices. They  wanted to download and use software applications  written  by other people. They did not want to be concerned about  what kind of hardware the other people had used to build  the software. This (quite reasonable) expectation was  difficult or impossible to meet  before Sun invented Java.  Java provided an extra layer between the operating system  and the applications (this layer is called a  "virtual machine") and applications could run  on this layer  regardless of the underlying hardware or  operating system. 

Java became a  universal translator. It broke Microsoft's stranglehold  on the  wildly lucrative PC platform. Think of it this way  by analogy: it was as if users were using incompatible  means of transportation: monorails, trains, trolley cars  and cable cars. Each method of transportation  dominated  some portion of the landscape - if you wanted to tour  Disneyland you could either walk or ride the monorail.  Disney could charge you to ride the monorail because the  choice was between paying or  walking. Microsoft was  building a toll highway on the PC platform in exactly  this mode. Then Sun invented (and gave away) something  like a 4-wheel drive sports utility vehicle. Now anyone  who wanted to could  drive almost anywhere they wanted to  without paying tolls.  This is the beauty of Java -  you can go anywhere you want on your own terms. You don't  have to pay tolls or buy a new vehicle every time   Microsoft makes a new release of the operating system.

Understandably  Microsoft was not pleased. First they were forced to  license Java so that their Internet strategy seemed  relevant. Then they may have  modified the virtual machine  for Windows so that certain Java applications written for  it did not run elsewhere. Sun sued Microsoft for breech  of contract and the lawsuit is ongoing but gathering  headway as  other companies sue Microsoft for similar  behavior.

The bottom line  is: Java is an "open system" while Microsoft's  virtual machines are  "closed systems."   Java offers access to the open highway and surrounding  countryside while Microsoft offers a really nice  monorail. 

A Tradition in Story Telling
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