Portability

extracted from : http://reality.sgi.com/shiffman/Java-JIT.html 
                        : Portable Programming - Peter J.L.Wallis 

                         Computer Software has always been dismayingly expensive to write. In fact it is getting more and more expensive as computer usage grows and increasingly sophisticated software is needed. At the same time, hardware costs are falling as newer and more advanced hardwares are built. So, more different and demanding hardware are available in the market nowadays, and we need different versions of computer programs (software) specific to the hardware even more. 
                        Each kind of computer has its own instruction set. While some processors include the instructions for their predecessors, it's generally true that a program that runs on one kind of machine (computer) won't run on another. Add in the services provided by the operating system, which each system describes in its own unique way, and you have a compatibility problem. In general, you can't write and compile a program for one kind of system and run it on any other without a lot of work. In other words, most programs are not portable, and this causes problems for multi-platform users. 
                        JAVA gets around this limitation by inserting its virtual machine between the application and the real environment (computer + operating system). If an application is compiled to Java bytecode and that bytecode is interpreted the same way in every environment then you can write a single program which will work on all the different platforms where JAVA is supported. (That's the theory, anyway. In practice there are always small incompatibilities lying in wait for the programmer.) Hence, a probable solution for the portability problems is JAVA. 

How is JAVA portable ?

extracted from : http://tech8.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/Dokumentation/java/doc.alpha3/ 

                        Easy. JAVA is an architecture neutral language. As stated in article1, the JAVA compiler generates JAVA Virtual Machine codes instead of machine codes specific to the computer system we are using. 
                        These Virtual Machine codes, or JAVA bytecodes, are all architecturally neutral; the compiled codes are executable on any processors and systems, provided of course, that the JAVA Virtual machine (interpreter) is installed in those systems. So, basically, the compiler generates bytecode instructions which have nothing to do with a particular computer architecture. Rather, they are designed to be both easy to interpret on any machine and easily translated into native code. 
                        Being architecture neutral is a big chunk of being portable, but there's more to it than that. Unlike C and C++, there are no "implementation dependent" aspects of the specification. The sizes of the primitive data types are specified, as is the behavior of arithmetic on them. For example, "int" always means a signed two's complement 32 bit integer, and "float" always means a 32-bit IEEE 754 floating point number. Making these choices is feasible in this day and age because essentially all interesting CPU's share these characteristics. The libraries that are a part of the system define portable interfaces. 
                        The best part is that the JAVA system itself is quite portable. The new compiler is written in JAVA and the runtime is written in C with a clean portability boundary. 
                        Okay, okay. JAVA is portable. So what? Well, being architecturely-neutral, Java applications are ideal for a diverse environment like the Internet (!!). More of this in JAVA and the WWW. 
                        So, in general, JAVA appears to be a dream come true. Portability of software across all computing platforms with advantage over C++ over dynamic loading and garbage collection - mundane sounding until you have to do it manually. Does this mean there will be more JAVA and fewer C++ applications written in the future? Yes, obviously. 





Return to article2 Main Page