Gosling: Another Language Debate?

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Print this article Print


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James Gosling, the creator of the Java language, says debate should be backed up with experiment and data.

It seems Java creator James Gosling is back in the middle of a language debate … well, sort of.

In recent posts on his blog, Sun Microsystems Fellow Gosling said he has never been happy about language debates. Yet, Gosling is no novice when it comes to such debates, having taken flak for comments he has made about dynamic languages in the past.

"I've never been real happy with debates about language features, I'd much rather implement them and try them out," Gosling said in a post from Jan. 8.

Moreover, Gosling noted that the open-sourcing of Java could lead to more and more developers "playing around" with the language.

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"There's lots of fun to be had playing around with javac," he said. Javac is the Java Compiler.

Indeed, "For years I've wanted to set up a 'Kitchen Sink Language' Web site for experimentation," Gosling said. "A place where people could throw language features, no matter how absurd, just so that folks could play around. Now that javac has been open-sourced, it's easy."

Yet, one of Gosling's colleagues, Peter von der Ahe, Sun's tech lead for Javac, has beaten Gosling to the punch and created the https://ksl.dev.java.net/ site, which is known as KSL, or the Kitchen Sink Language project—an open-source incubator project at Sun. Ahe also is the specification lead for JSR (Java Specification Request) 199, the Java Compiler API.

Some respondents to Gosling's post seem to long for the closed days of the past.

Said a commenter to Gosling's post, who identified himself as "barspi": "James, you say that you never have been happy with the debate about languages features. I totally agree with you. But with the release of Java under open source these kinds of debates will become more often. This is the top reason I would have hoped Java would have stayed non open source."

However, in a follow-up post, Gosling explained that his comments on disliking language debates were perhaps misconstrued.

In a Jan. 9 post to his blog, Gosling said: "I didn't mean that I don't like the debate. What I don't like is debate divorced from experiment and data. Language arguments can get into all sorts of hand waving without building sample implementations. What ksl.dev.java.net is about is trying to provide a scientific basis for the debate. Throw stuff into the kitchen sink without thinking too hard about whether or not it's a good idea. Let folks kick the tires. Those experiences then inform the choice of which features go into the standard."

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Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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