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James Gosling on Java, May 2001
A Conversation with Java's Creator, James Gosling
by Bill Venners
First Published in JavaWorld, June 2001

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Summary
Java's Creator James Gosling talks with Bill Venners about many topics, including complexity, simplicity inheritance, composition, JSPs, servlets, and more.

On Thursday, May 10, 2001 I peddled my bicycle up to Sun Labs in Mountain View, California to interview Sun Microsystems Vice President and Fellow James Gosling at his Sun Labs office. In this interview, Gosling gives his thoughts on complexity and simplicity, inheritance and composition, JSPs and servlets, and community design processes, and more.

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Bill Venners: What have you been up to this past year?

James Gosling: Doing a lot less traveling. I'm not really going around preaching the gospel anymore. Folks are pretty converted these days. I hardly give talks at all now. I've almost exclusively switched over to doing long Q&A sessions where I get up on a stage and either people ask me questions directly, or I pull questions out of a fishbowl. For the last year I've been working at Sun Labs and ignoring all the usual corporate 'goo' that comes with working at a company.

I've mostly been working on developer tools. I took a little hacking vacation earlier this year to do a relatively sophisticated Web server. It's just a pile of JavaServer Pages that manage the labs and the corporate document archive. And that has mushroomed features like mad. But my real job has been developing tools. In particular, I'm interested in tools for people who have to write code.

Most developer tools try to shield you from actually writing code in constructing the GUI bits or the database bits. Yet when you do write code you usually get glass teletypes where high tech is keyword coloring. Really high tech gives you a bit of help as you're typing in names, but that's where it ends.

So my work lately has centered on refactoring ideas, where you view a program as an algebraic structure, and you start doing essentially algebraic transformations on the program. That's been a lot of fun.

Bill Venners: You mean algebraic transformations in the context of refactoring your program?

James Gosling: Yeah. One thing my tool will do right now is let you rename a class. Renaming a class at one level is really easy; you just change the name. But how do you change all the references to that class and all the imports? And what about renaming when it includes moving a class from one package to another? I did all this stuff to rederive all the import lists in order to deal with the various naming issues. But it's going even further. This is prototype number three, or maybe number four.

Bill Venners: Will this tool be seen outside of Sun?

James Gosling: Yes. If it gets to the state where it looks like it might have even a vague chance of being interesting. My hope is to throw it over the wall some day.

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