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The languages of the Web

The languages of the Web

Java and JavaScript are two related (but not identical) languages whose syntaxes are similar to those of C and C++. For this reason, they are terse and cryptic and not at all easy to master. (A language based on Pascal, Basic, or Rexx would have been a better choice, but Sun Microsystems - which makes Unix workstations - had an understandable bias towards C.) Both can be used to write OS-independent client/server applications in which code is executed by a Web server, a Web browser (the client), or both in tandem.

When Java or JavaScript code runs on your Web browser, it's supposedly prevented from doing anything harmful to your system, but I'm not convinced that it's 100 per cent safe. It might still trigger unwanted downloads, send e-mail on your behalf, or gather information about you.

Although the syntaxes of Java and JavaScript are similar, their semantics are quite different. Java is a "comterpreted" language; it's precompiled to a pseudo-code, also called P-code or byte codes. (UCSD Pascal, Visual Basic, and some dialects of Cobol also do this.) The P-code is later executed by an interpreter. Java thus has many of the familiar traits of compiled languages: bindings are static, and the source need not be available at runtime. JavaScript, by contrast, is fully interpreted. Bindings are dynamic, and the source of client-side apps is available at runtime.

Although Java and JavaScript are hyped as the languages of the Web, you need not feel shackled to either one. Server-side code for the Web can be, and traditionally has been, written in other languages. (Perl is quite popular for this purpose.) The client side is a bit more problematic. Fortunately, there's no technological reason why programmers could not create compilers for other languages - perhaps including Tcl, Telescript, Basic, Rexx, Forth, or even PostScript - that generate the same P-code as Java or produce JavaScript as their output. If this happens - and I hope it does - it will allow Webmasters to write in more maintainable languages and free them from the need to learn yet another pair of oddball C++ derivatives.

Java resources on the Web

The first issue of Australian Reseller News featured "A little about Java", which provided a list of Web sites to visit in order to have some of your questions answered. Java information sites are sprouting up all over the World Wide Web. Here is an updated list of a few choice sites that act as starting points for learning more about Java development.

Sun Microsystems Java resource page

java.Sun.com

Java User Resource Network

www.nebulex.com/URN/home/html

Infinite Data Sources' The Java Developerwww.idsonline.com/digitalfocus/faqVirtual Rendezvous's Club Javarendezvous.com/javaPresenting Java Information Sourceswww.rpi.edu/~decemj/works/java/info.htmlJavaWorld Magazinewww.javaworld.com


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