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Net founders face Java future

On a stage before thousands at JavaOne, the pioneers of the Internet met others who created what they hope will be the Internet's future: Java.

2 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--On a stage before thousands at the JavaOne conference here, the pioneers and creators of the Internet crossed paths briefly with four men who created what many believe, or at least hope, will be the Internet's future: Java.

The link between those two eras today was Eric Schmidt, departing as chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems (SUNW) to become chairman of struggling Novell (NOVL).

Schmidt, in his last appearance as a Sun employee, paid homage to Internet cofounders Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn, Hans-Werner Braun, and Stephen Wolff, then cheered key figures in Sun's development team that birthed Java.

"Time is changing again because of the Net," Schmidt said, "and time compression all around us seems to be the thing driving globalization, and globalization is what's driving economics and politics."

Schmidt termed the Internet "the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had."

Kahn, a key figure at ARPAnet two decades ago, refused to call creating the Net difficult. "We didn't think of it as hard but challenging. We felt it was a world of the future unfolding in front of us."

Wolff, who funded much of the growth of the Internet through grants to universities from the National Science Foundation and now works with Cisco Systems, said the intent was always for the Net to become a commercial medium.

"It was clear that the university community could not afford the network," he said. "The only way to afford it was if they were appendages on something else."

Cerf, now an MCI executive, added to Wolff's comment: "We were focused on the paradigm that said build first, figure what's wrong, fix it, and then standardize."

Cerf also hailed Java as an important platform with significance far beyond network computers or NCs.

James Gosling, the vice president and Sun fellow who nurtured Java inside Sun while looking for an application that would use it, recalled that early on there were few rules. "Don't do something that somebody doesn't want. If there's no obvious good option, don't pick anything. One of the central unifying concepts was that we only put in stuff that was needed."