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From BASIC to Java: an introduction to Java for BASIC programmers (5)

(Continued from the Java for BASIC programmers introduction.)

The development process

A big advantage of BASIC on many 80s home computers was that it was "just there". When you turned on your computer (ah, the days of just plugging in the cable rather than waiting 2 centuries for Windows to boot up...), the BASIC prompt was the first thing to appear, waiting for you to start executing commands.

Sadly, we've now lost this level of immediacy. Programming is more of a "special thing" on modern systems, and the tools required to program must generally be explicitly bought or downloaded. In the case of various modern languages such as Java– and even some modern versions of BASIC– writing and even running a program often requires a special download to begin with. The upside of this, of course, is that the language and tools to program in it are orders of magnitude more sophisticated than Sinclair BASIC, God may it rest in peace.

To get up and running with Java, you genreally need to download what is called a Java Development Kit (JDK). JDKs for various platforms are freely available from Sun's web site. The JDK consists of the Java Runtime Environment (needed to run a Java program), plus extra resources for programmers, such as command line tools and documentation. It is then strongly recommended to download an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). An IDE provides a windowed interface for managing your programming projects and provides a Java-friendly code editor with features such as colouring parts of the code according to syntax and giving context-sensitive help (such as reminders about the parameters that a particular method takes). If you are a command-line junkie, then it is definitely possible to program Java using command-line tools plus the text editor of your choice. But most people find it easier to use some sort of IDE in the long run.

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Written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2012. All rights reserved.