What is Java?
Java is what’s known as a high-level programming language, which means that it’s much easier for humans to read than the complex (low-level) code computers understand. In this way, it’s similar to popular languages like Python and C#. Sun Microsystems released Java back in 1995. Nearly 30 years later, it’s in use by almost 9 million software developers.
There are several ideas behind Java as a coding language:
- Java uses a programming paradigm called object oriented programming. You’ll learn more about that in a moment.
- Java programs should be secure.
- Java is that programs built with it should run on any platform. That includes Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Software made with Java is also supposed to require very little support from what are called dependencies. A lot of programs rely on large collections of code written by others to function. These are dependencies.
Finally, Java is a compiled language. Put simply, a compiled language is one that goes through a process that translates it from human-readable format to something computers can read. This translation makes programs faster than those written in interpreted languages, like Python, which essentially translate as the code runs.
Java is an object-oriented programming language. It uses classes, objects, and other related concepts. Classes are prototypes that define the characteristics of the objects that belong to them. Software engineers build programs by creating classes and defining all the things the objects that belong to those classes can do. Then they add objects to their software that do the actual work. A real-world analogy might be helpful: Imagine that “car” is a class. A car can move forward, backward, it can turn left and right, and come to an abrupt stop. The vehicle in your driveway can do all these things because it’s an object that belongs to the “car” class. Programmers would call every individual car an “instance” of the car object.
Java is responsible for some of the most powerful and popular pieces of software in the world. Minecraft, the biggest video game on the internet, was built with Java. More than 140 million players around the globe explore and build virtual creations in Minecraft’s 3D worlds. Zillow, the real estate website used by millions of people to search for houses, condos, and apartments, is a Java application. Acrobat Reader is a Java app that lets people open, review, and sign PDF documents. Amazon uses Java, and so do Netflix, Tinder, Google Earth, and Uber.
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Several resources can tell you more about Java, how it works, and how to use it. The best one to start with is probably the Java website from Oracle. You can download everything needed to write Java software and access tutorials here. There, you’ll also find Java Magazine, a helpful blog for those who want to go in-depth on Java technology.
If you’d like to get your student started with Java classes, online coding classes for kids are an excellent option:
- Java I Intro to Java: Kids learn what Java is and why it’s useful. They also learn the basic building blocks of the language, including its methods, decision-making statements, and data types.
- Java II Intermediate: This class builds on the information in the previous one and presents the concept of object-oriented programming. Students finish the class by building a project.
- jQuery—a library that makes it easy to manipulate HTML elements and add interaction to websites.
- Angular—a robust framework for web applications.
- React—another framework for web apps that can also be used for mobile apps
- Vue—a framework for building all sorts of web applications. The helpful explainer video on the Vue.js homepage explains its key advantages.
- Classes for elementary school students, like Intro to Real-World Programming, focus on building problem-solving skills and acquiring the basic concepts.
- In Fundamentals of Web Development, high school students combine the three fundamental front-end languages of the web and learn to build complete websites.
In other words, only the first few letters are similar. There are other variations of this joke, but they all assert that the two languages do very different things and have different structures, syntaxes, and underlying concepts.
However, that’s not the whole story. The names of these two languages reveal a relationship.
Sun Microsystems, the company that released Java back in the 1990s, originally called the language Oak. But another company already had a trademark on that name, so Sun’s lawyers said Sun couldn’t use it. A team of engineers and product managers at Sun did some brainstorming and someone came up with Java. A product manager claims to be the person responsible for the name, and says that it reflects the dynamic, energizing nature of the language.
|You need the Java Development Kit.||You can write code in any text editor.|
|Code runs on a server.||Code runs in the browser.|
|Performs back-end work.||Does a lot of its work in website front-ends (user interfaces).|
|Developers use it to build mobile, web, and desktop apps.||Web developers use it to build websites.|
|The syntax is similar to C++ and is somewhat complex.||The syntax is simpler.|
When deciding which language to learn, it’s important to know what you want to build. Kids who should learn Java probably want to build mobile apps for Android devices or work on huge software suites with large user bases. For these students, CodeWizardsHQ’s AP Computer Science prep courses would be a good choice.