TOURBUS: Tuesday, August 6, 1996
DRIVER: Bob Rankin
Java and Jumping Frogs

No, it's not Smokin' Joe, a Cup of Mud or anything resembling hot liquid this time... Java is a new technology from Sun Microsystems that enables real interactivity on the Web. If you go direct to Sun for a definition, it's a bit loftier...

"Java is a simple, robust, object-oriented, platform-independent multi-threaded, dynamic general-purpose programming environment. It's best for creating applets and applications for the Internet, intranets and any other complex, distributed network."

Aside from setting a new world's record for consecutive adjectives, that should about cover it. For programmers, it's a way to extend the Web in exciting directions. For users, it's the promise of running full-scale applications over the Web, as opposed to mere sightseeing. But what can you really do with Java? And what's an applet?

A Java applet is a program that can be included in a Web page, much like an image. When you use a Java-compatible browser to view such a page, code is transferred to your system and executed by the browser. This is a big step beyond good old HTML (the tags used to format Web pages).

HTML is really just a simple markup language that tells your browser how to format the text and images on a page. You can't do anything that requires interactivity or "if/then/else" programming logic. Enter Java, a programming language for the Web. With Java and it's cousin JavaScript, you can create things like interactive games, scrolling marquees, spreadsheets and jumping frogs.

Jumping Frogs??? I must have this Technology!

If like most people, that was your immediate reaction, you'll have to find a browser that supports Java, such as Netscape V2 for Windows 95 or NT. (Sun says Java is supported on Win 3.1, but I've not seen a version of Netscape or any other browser that can do it there.) You'll also need a pretty fast machine, plenty of memory, and at least a 28.8K connection to handle the large quantities of data required to make frogs jump in cyberspace.

Not sure if your browser supports Java? Just try it... Hop on over to and see what happens. If you get a page that says "Can you see the jumping Frog???" but alas, it is frogless, there may still be a glimmer of hope. Check the settings under Options+Security Preferences (or equivalent) and see if Java is perchance disabled.

Netscape's Release Notes page at will tell which versions & platforms of their browser support Java. Sun also has a special browser called HotJava (for Win 95, NT and some Unix flavors) that you can try. Microsoft has their own Java-like thing called ActiveX, so Internet Explorer does not support Java, unless you download the Java Support Update for IE 3.0 Beta 2.

Users of Windows 3.1 and Netscape V2 can still use JavaScript applications, though. If you'd like to see some JavaScript in action, see my home page at and look for the scrolling marquee at the top of the page. (If it doesn't scroll, you may need to fix the Preferences or upgrade to V2.) Feel free to steal the code and hack it to suit!

More Java Stuff

Want to learn more about using Java, creating applets, and where to find a directory of cool Java applets? Check out Sun's All About Java Page where you'll find the Java FAQ and other helpful resources.

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Oh! If you're planning to attend the ONE ISPCON convention in San Francisco this week, look for me at the Boardwatch Magazine booth. I'll be happy to autograph a copy "Painless" for you. See you next time! -Bob
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