What is 'Java'?
Java is an object-oriented computer language from Sun Microsystems.
Compared to many other languages, such as FORTRAN and LISP, Java is a relative newcomer on the scene. It started out in 1995 as a simple C-like language whose main advantages were automatic garbage collection and the ability to bring web pages to life with applets. It is also platform-independent, as programs run in a virtual machine on the supported platform. That means, for example, that a program written on a UNIX machine will run without modification on a Windows PC.
Early in the development of the World Wide Web, Sun and Netscape announced that Java 1.0 would be included in Netscape Navigator, the most popular web browser at the time. In 1997, Java 1.1 brought a more scaleable events model for the programming of graphical user interfaces and the introduction of inner classes. Java 1.2 and 1.3 saw the introduction of the Collections framework, incremental improvements in Swing GUI components, and the introduction of countless other libraries and Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs), such as JavaMail and the Java Speech API. We also saw the rise of Java as a server-side language, with Java Server Pages (JSPs) and Java Enterprise Beans. In 2002, Java 1.4 introduced assertions into the core language, and a logging facility.
The latest release (at the time of writing) is Java 1.5. This version changes the syntax of Java in some areas to add new features to the language. Some important additions are type-safe enumerations and generics. For more information, read this article about Java 1.5