Finweek English Edition - - Communication & technology - BENE­DICT KELLY

IF YOU HAVE A cell­phone and want to play games or run pro­grams on the phone, you’ll of­ten see a logo come up say­ing: “Java”.

Of course, Java has three of­fi­cial mean­ings: it could be a large is­land form­ing part of In­done­sia, a slang term for a cup of cof­fee or, in this case, a pro­gram lan­guage de­signed by Sun Mi­crosys­tems.

The idea be­hind Java was to cre­ate com­puter pro­grams that could run on any com­puter with­out hav­ing to be rewrit­ten each time.

The rea­son why that’s nec­es­sary is that ev­ery type of com­puter op­er­at­ing sys­tem – such as Win­dows, Linux, Mac OS or even the sys­tems that run your cell­phone – are like for­eign coun- tries, each with its own lan­guage. So while a com­pany might write a game to speak flu­ently to a Win­dows PC, if you try and run it on a cell­phone you’re out of luck, be­cause to the phone it’s gib­ber­ish.

What Java does is rely on an ex­tra piece of soft­ware – called a Java Vir­tual Ma­chine – to act as a uni­ver­sal trans­la­tor be­tween the Java pro­gram and the ma­chine it’s run­ning on. Though each trans­la­tor has to be writ­ten for the spe­cific sys­tem that it’s run­ning on, once that’s been done, the Java Vir­tual Ma­chine be­comes the equiv­a­lent of a lo­cal guide in a for­eign coun­try – one luck­ily ed­u­cated in the lan­guage of your choice.

The only real limita- tion then be­comes the power of the de­vice and the amount of me­mory avail­able. Pro­grams for cell­phones are de­signed to be run on small, low-power de­vices with lim­ited stor­age ca­pac­ity; while a large cor­po­rate pro­gram is de­signed to run on a fast, high-pow­ered ma­chine with ac­cess to mas­sive amounts of me­mory. There­fore, a cell­phone would be un­likely to run the cor­po­rate pro­gram. How­ever, a pro­gram de­signed for a cell­phone should, in the­ory, run fine on the big com­puter.

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