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The Process
at Work

Making It or Breaking It


Making It or Breaking It

An inventor, trying to find a solution through innovation, must face any number of challenges to make their vision a reality. However, even with a brilliant invention or innovation, an inventor can have more problems marketing and profiting from their invention than creating the product itself. There are a wide range of problems that an inventor can have when selling their product. The most common is demand. In some cases, the product an inventor has created is either outdated or ahead of its time. Unfortunately, for those inventors who have patented an outdated invention, they will have a difficult time making a profit. For those whose inventions are ahead of their time, however, success and profit require patience.

James Gosling, a programmer and graduate of the University of Calgary, is just one of many Albertans who have successfully made it through. In the early 1990s, Gosling had a reputation for innovative thinking and was contacted by a large American computing firm, Sun Microsystems, to create a universal programming language for software development. In 1991, Gosling joined Sun’s "Green Team" and attempted to create a new computer language. With this new programming language, Sun would be able to expand into the lucrative video game and domestic device markets.

Java architect, James Gosling, discussing the use of Java at the 2002 Mac OS X Conference. Presentations such as these at conferences play in important role in the promotion of new innovations to industry leaders.This project was top secret. Sun expected to greatly profit from this programming language and wanted the project and its findings to be discreet. The Green Team was moved away from Sun with all regular communication severed—the team would only emerge once the project had been completed. After 18 months of intensive development, the team emerged with their new language, then known as "Oak."

Sun considered this new programming language to be brilliant. However, marketing this new technology was difficult. The obvious markets, as identified by Sun, were digital cable television and video gaming. Sun entered into negotiations with Time-Warner to bring this technology to their cable network, but the deal was never finalized. The language suffered further disappointments when a gaming manufacturer, after showing great interest in the new technology, decided to look elsewhere.

James Gosling and his team were in a difficult situation. Gosling himself was reliving the same problem he had encountered years earlier when he had developed a new operating system that never found a market. This time, Gosling’s new language was considered too far ahead of its time.

The Internet revitalized Gosling’s programming language and proved to be the perfect medium for Oak. With the growing popularity of the Internet, Oak was revitalized and patented under a new name—Java. Java allowed for web-based programs in a common language. Sun saw the opportunity and began to showcase its Java technology. By 1995, Java was introduced and spreading rapidly. Gosling’s idea and innovation had "made it." Despite initial problems, the language became widely used and both Gosling and Sun Microsystems reaped the rewards of skill, ingenuity and patience.

Click here for more information on James Gosling and the development of Java.

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