When Java is dead

23 Jul 2003

Could a programming language last "forever"? What about a thousand years? How long do you think Java will last?

I think there are a certain class of programming languages that eventually just die. First, people stop writing new programs in that language; the language is only used in the maintenance of old programs. Eventually, those programs stop being maintained and no one uses that language any more. That language is now on its death bed. After a while (sometimes a long while), those unmaintained programs are decommissioned. And then the language is dead.

I wonder how many languages are like that. Destined to die. Surely all languages will eventually disappear (what with the looming heat death of the universe), so instead I wonder: What languages will last a thousand years?

How long will Java last? Not a thousand years, I'll wager. It's a hard question to answer, when no computing language is even 60 years old (timeline). FORTRAN was coined in the 1950's, and it's still going. I'd say BCPL and B are probably dead (the precursors to C). And I assume no-one is still using Algol 58/60/68.

How long will Java last? I think the last line of Java will be written before the end of this century. And I'll give those (thousands? millions?) of unmaintained Java programs another century to be decommissioned. All that Java hype: over by 2100, dead by 2200.

Why don't I think people will be writing programs in Java in 100 years time? A few reasons, but mainly this: Software is getting so much more complex as time goes on that we will not be able to write that software in a language like Java.

But I'm not sad. I don't care, I'll be dead by then.

Well, there is one aspect of this that makes me sad. I love being a part of our global Java community. We do good things. And there is Ant, and the whole Jakarta crew, and the rest of the OS Java crowd. And there is JavaOne, and magazines, and blogs. And there is Sun, too, I suppose.

And in 100 years, no one will care.

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