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Learning Java, 4th Edition by Patrick Niemeyer, Daniel Leuck

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Chapter 1. A Modern Language

The greatest challenges and most exciting opportunities for software developers today lie in harnessing the power of networks. Applications created today, whatever their intended scope or audience, will almost certainly run on machines linked by a global network of computing resources. The increasing importance of networks is placing new demands on existing tools and fueling the demand for a rapidly growing list of completely new kinds of applications.

We want software that works—consistently, anywhere, on any platform—and that plays well with other applications. We want dynamic applications that take advantage of a connected world, capable of accessing disparate and distributed information sources. We want truly distributed software that can be extended and upgraded seamlessly. We want intelligent applications that can roam the Net for us, ferreting out information and serving as electronic emissaries. We have known for some time what kind of software we want, but it is really only in the past few years that we have begun to get it.

The problem, historically, has been that the tools for building these applications have fallen short. The requirements of speed and portability have been, for the most part, mutually exclusive, and security has been largely ignored or misunderstood. In the past, truly portable languages were bulky, interpreted, and slow. These languages were popular as much for their high-level functionality as for their portability. Fast languages usually provided speed by binding themselves to particular platforms, so they met the portability issue only halfway. There were even a few safe languages, but they were primarily offshoots of the portable languages and suffered from the same problems. Java is a modern language that addresses all three of these fronts: portability, speed, and security. This is why it has been a dominant language in the world of programming for more than a decade and a half.

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