Java is Platform Independent

Java was designed to not only be cross-platform in source form like C, but also in compiled binary form. Since this is frankly impossible across processor architectures Java is compiled to an intermediate form called byte-code. A Java program never really executes natively on the host machine. Rather a special native program called the Java interpreter reads the byte code and executes the corresponding native machine instructions. Thus to port Java programs to a new platform all that is needed is to port the interpreter and some of the library routines. Even the compiler is written in Java. The byte codes are precisely defined, and remain the same on all platforms.

The second important part of making Java cross-platform is the elimination of undefined or architecture dependent constructs. Integers are always four bytes long, and floating point variables follow the IEEE 754 standard for computer arithmetic exactly. You don't have to worry that the meaning of an integer is going to change if you move from a Pentium to a PowerPC. In Java everything is guaranteed.

However the virtual machine itself and some parts of the class library must be written in native code. These are not always as easy or as quick to port as pure Java programs.

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Copyright 1997-2006 Elliotte Rusty Harold
Last Modified January 28, 2007