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JavaStation and the Future


... that already existed back then.

This is post no. 66 for Kev Quirk's #100DaysToOffload challenge. The point is to write many things, not to write good ones. Please adjust quality expectations accordingly :)

It's fun to contemplate that the current Web with all the Javascript garbage wasn't inevitable.

Once upon a time, it was Java instead. Actual Java. With Java applets.

This was Sun's idea of how a "Network Computer" would look like, circa 1996-ish:

The way I was imagining these things is that you could launch full apps, running in their own windows, on them; finally, something where not everything had to pretend it's a web document. Well, as it turns out, I was wrong: the apps were sitting inside of the browser window, just like with modern web apps. (This is Corel Office.) At least though, there were actual popup windows: the world hasn't descended into "everything has to be tabs, forever" yet.

JavaOS, with Corel Office running within one of their browser windows

There is yet another thing: ... is this entire OS a single Java VM?

a process list that looks a lot like a set of Java threads within a process

... actually, yes, this does look like a single Java VM. Which meshes well with the original Java security model, actually: you didn't need process isolation (... mostly because you didn't have process isolation sometimes... think Windows 95).

Just... think of the simplicity. Instead of having a bunch of JVMs, written in C mostly, interacting via Linux system calls and ugly JNI things, this was an actual Java OS with a single JVM, written in Java itself.

Sure, it was impressively slow (JIT wasn't a thing back then), but... at least they were taking the concept of a VM and Actually Using Java seriously. Instead of cargo-culting "it needs to be a VM" even though we have UNIX process isolation (see link above).

Too bad the JVM in question wasn't too speedy... but... it's still fun to imagine that this was closer to a Lisp Machine than contemporary UNIX is.

... comments welcome, either in email or on the (eventual) Mastodon post on Fosstodon.