Well, someone has finally dared to use the J-word in a book written for the ColdFusion developer community. I couldn't be happier ! Eben Hewitt has written a book about Java for ColdFusion developers ”and it's an excellent book, I'm happy to report.
But wait ” Java ? Hasn't Macromedia spent a great deal of effort reassuring ColdFusion developers that they won't need to learn Java to use ColdFusion? They certainly have ”and when the question is phrased as " Must I learn Java?," the answer must be "No." But perhaps our question ought to be, " Should I learn Java?" Ask a better question and you may get a better answer.
There are any number of very practical reasons that you might want to learn Java. That you're holding this book in your hands rather than another indicates that you're probably well aware of them. For many of us, the most compelling reasons are the increased job opportunities and better pay that knowing Java represents.
Like it or not, we developers work in a field where our current knowledge has a finite lifetime of usefulness . In the hyper-accelerated environment of Web technology, new knowledge springs forth daily to replace the old. Our hard-won expertise becomes less valuable daily. Economists even have a term for this; they call it a wasting asset. Ouch.
The inescapable fact is that this new knowledge mainly centers on Java, and that fact can be a terrifying one to ColdFusion programmers, who might ask, " Java? You want me to learn Java ”with all its weird, C-like syntax and classes that extend from this and inherit that and are dependent on something else? That Java?"
Yes ”that Java. Java represents a watershed event in the history of software development ”the mass adoption of object orientation (OO) as the standard for building software. For 30 years , OO has been being nurtured in a community of dedicated academicians, theorists, and tool-builders.
Building on the best practices that proceeded it, OO provides not only some new languages (e.g., Eiffel, Smalltalk, and Java), but a new way of approaching how we create software. During my career, OO has moved from being a quirky, ivory-tower science project to the dominant paradigm for building commercial software. And Java stands as the unchallenged 800- pound gorilla of OO languages.
Financial considerations aside, I find that developers are very creative people who enjoy the thrill of making scale- modeled universes that work ! Java represents a new set of tools that can help you built bigger, better, cooler (and yes, more profitable) universes. Learning Java will almost certainly make you a more capable and more secure developer. And, while you don't have to learn Java to continue to use ColdFusion, the new capabilities of ColdFusion MX make learning Java more attractive than ever.
All right; you've decided to take the plunge. If Java is the future, you're ready to embrace it. Why this book, though? There's certainly no shortage of Java books around. Some are bigger, some are cheaper, some even have a snazzier cover! Or does it even matter? Having made the decision to learn Java, does the choice of book really make much of a difference?
I believe it does. Learning a new language is not easy. Consider the difficulties encountered for centuries by Egyptologists trying to decipher the picture-language used by ancient Egyptians. Scholars had expended great efforts only to achieve scant results. Then, in 1799, some of Napoleon's soldiers were digging the foundations of an addition to a fort near the town of Rashid in the Nile delta when they came across a six- foot tall stone with hieroglyphs on it.
Had that been all there was to the stone, very little consideration would have been given to it. It dated from about 195 B.C ., but such ancient artifacts endowed with hieroglyphs were neither rare nor notable in the Nile valley. The text of the stone was not particularly noteworthy, either. It began with the praises of King Ptolemy V, it was followed by an account of the siege of the city, Lycopolis, and it ended with the establishment of a religion venerating the king. But, today, every schoolchild knows of this stone, which became known as the Rosetta stone. What made this stone special was the fact that the text was inscribed in both the unknown Egyptian hieroglyphs and the familiar Greek language. The scholars' knowledge of Greek thus became a key to learning an unknown language.
You might think of this book as a type of Rosetta stone ”one that will help you to decipher Java. It begins with what you know ”ColdFusion ”and uses this as a key to help you understand Java. I can think of no better way to learn a new language.
Building on this excellent idea, Eben uses clear language, copious examples, insightful theory, and wry humor to achieve his goal ”helping us leverage our ColdFusion knowledge into Java expertise.
This book won't teach you everything about Java. No book can. As a friend of mine says, "Saying 'I know Java' is like saying, 'I know science.'" There's plenty of material to work with for years to come. But this book will give you a working knowledge of Java basics and a firm foundation on which to increase your knowledge. If you're a ColdFusion programmer looking to learn Java, I can offer no better advice than to buy this book and study it.