Listen to the text
What do an Indonesian island, coffee, a French waltz, and a programming language have in common? They share the same name, “Java”. While the computer programming language is just a few decades old, the history of the word “Java” goes back several centuries, to a time when Indonesia was the heart of global coffee production.
With a population of about 150 million people, Java is the world’s most populous island. The origins of its name are unclear. One version is that the word “java” comes from “jaú”, which means “beyond” or “distant”. At the very beginning of the 18th century, Dutch colonists planted sugar cane, tea, and coffee on the island. By the 1720s, Java had the most successful coffee plantations in the world. Java coffee was the first packaged ground coffee sold on the American market. The name was a symbol of quality, and so it became a synonym for coffee in American slang.
Java is also the name of a dance that was popular in France in the first half of the 20th century. It is a particular type of waltz — faster, more sensual, and less formal than the original. The dancers move very close to one another and often place their hands on their partner’s buttocks. Not surprisingly, java was considered quite scandalous at the time and was forbidden in respectable dance halls.
Java, the programming language, was introduced in 1995. Its creator, James Gosling, first wanted to name the language “Oak”, after a tree that grew outside his office. However, Sun Microsystems, the company that employed Gosling, thought that “oak” did not sound catchy enough and started brainstorming alternatives. The short list included Silk, DNA, Pepper, NetProsse, Neon, Ruby, WebRunner Language, WebDancer, Green, and Java. The last variant was finally chosen for its lively, dynamic, energetic associations. And, as another Sun Microsystems employee put it, “because programmers drink a lot of java.”