Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pioneer Programmers at UC San Diego Indirectly Inspired the Birth of Java

Ken Bowles, a former UC San Diego professor, and his students, are the subjects of a lengthy profile in next month's issue of Spectrum IEEE. Bowles and his team created in the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s the UCSD p-system, a computing system that was portable from one type of computer to another. The system could handle fairly sophisticated graphics (for its time) and included fairly modern features, including a full-screen text editor and drop-down menus.

According to the Spectrum IEEE story, this work "influenced academic computer science, the design of the Pascal programming language, object-oriented programming, and graphical user interfaces. Although that work did not produce a commercial success, the story of these visionary programmers and their audacious plans offers some unique insights into how the computer industry evolved—for example, why the Apple Macintosh is what it is. It also explains how an accident of fate would later bring these ideas to the world again in the form of Java."

James Gosling, best known as the father of Java, worked on machines that ran the UCSD p-system as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. He used an approach he developed while working on these machines when creating Java, according to this story.

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