James Gosling, a DDJ Excellence in Programming Award recipient, vice president and fellow at Sun Microsystems, and programmer best known as the chief architect of the Java programming language, will present the keynote lecture in Pittsburgh tonight for the 25th (plus one) anniversary of Carnegie Mellon University's pioneering Andrew Project, which developed the university's central distributed computing service and made it the world's first wired campus. The lecture is open to the public.
In his talk, Gosling, who earned his Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie Mellon in 1983, will reflect on the history of Java and some of its unusual uses, as well as some future directions such as deployment in mobile devices.
The talk is part of an Andrew Project Reunion that will continue through Saturday. Gosling was the lead implementer of Andrew's user interface and will be among about a dozen speakers who will reminisce and reflect on their experiences. Although last year marked the 25th anniversary of work commencing on Andrew, the reunion was delayed a year because Jim Morris, professor of computer science and director of the Information Technology Center (ITC) that developed Andrew, was unable to attend.
"Andrew sort of took everyone by surprise," said Morris, former dean of the School of Computer Science and Carnegie Mellon's Silicon Valley campus. In the early '80s, most computer systems relied on a central computing facility, but members of the Andrew Project envisioned an open system that would rely on personal computers to do the bulk of the processing. "It was on the leading edge of a new computing paradigm," Morris said. "In some sense, the entire world copied the distributed computer model." Carnegie Mellon wasn't the first place to try networking personal computers, but nowhere else was it attempted on such a scale.
Developing a prototype computing environment for academic use was recommended by a task force on computing established in 1981 by Richard Cyert, then president of Carnegie Mellon. In 1982, Carnegie Mellon and IBM formed the ITC to create an integrated personal-computing system within a five-year time frame. Work began in January 1983. The name Andrew was derived from university benefactors Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon.
The computing industry at the time emphasized the sale of hardware, Morris noted, and some people within IBM hoped that the Andrew Project would yield products that might be sold for other campus projects. The Andrew File System, a scalable, distributed file system, did become a product sold by Transarc Corp. and continues to be used. But other vendors, including Sun Microsystems, eventually would develop and sell products for establishing the personal computer networks that are ubiquitous today.
Carnegie Mellon's Andrew system includes a central file store, email, notification services and a large selection of application software. The Andrew user community at Carnegie Mellon includes more than 10,000 users. Most of the software written by the original Andrew Project has been replaced by commercial versions that it inspired.
Networking innovation has continued at Carnegie Mellon. In 1994, long before the Wi-Fi standard was adopted, work began at Carnegie Mellon on Wireless Andrew, the first wireless network to connect laptops and PDAs to the Internet. By 1999, Wireless Andrew served all 65 residential, academic and administrative buildings on the campus.