How ‘Java’ Became Coffee’s Nickname and a Programming Language – The New York Times

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Clued in
In Thursday’s puzzle, “Java” was the answer to the clue “Programming language named for a drink named for an island.”
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This is Clued In, a column that will give you insight into some of the New York Times Crossword clues and answers.
“Java” has been used in 128 New York Times crossword puzzles. It has been clued in several different ways, including “Jitter Juice” and “Where Jakarta is.” It made its first appearance in the New York Times Crossword in 1942. Most recently, it appeared in Thursday’s puzzle, constructed by Howard Barkin.
What do an Indonesian island, coffee and a programming language have in common? The name “Java,” of course.
Java, the programming language, isn’t even 30 years old yet, but the history of the word goes back several centuries, to a time when coffee trees were plentiful in Indonesia and people were eager to have a cup of joe.
Coffee got its nickname from the island in Indonesia, where the Dutch first planted coffee trees in their colony in the late 1600s, according to Peter Giuliano, the chief research officer at the Specialty Coffee Association. By the 1720s, the Dutch plantations in Java were the most successful coffee plantations in the world.
Osborn’s Celebrated Prepared Java Coffee was the first packaged ground coffee sold on the American market, Giuliano said, “which shows how important the place name ‘Java’ was in communicating coffee quality.” Because of this, “Java” became a synonym for coffee.
Coffee production still takes place on the Indonesian island today, despite a coffee leaf rust disease outbreak in the 1800s that decimated the industry.
“I have personally traveled to Java on multiple occasions,” Giuliano said. “I can testify to a thriving coffee community there, including a cool coffee consuming culture.”
The island of Java, which is known for its volcanoes, is densely populated and home to roughly half of Indonesia’s population. Java has more than 30 active volcanoes, according to Léa Chiaffi, a travel agent at Altaï Indonesia. Even though Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is on Java, “tourism isn’t developed everywhere on the island,” she said.
In the U.S., Java was still a popular nickname for coffee in the late 1990s when the computer programming language was developed, said Georges Saab, the vice president of development for Java at Oracle. The first release of the Java programming language was introduced in 1995 after four years of development.
Java was initially called Oak, named for a tree outside the office of Java’s creator, James Gosling. Jim Waldo, a Harvard computer science professor, was a principal investigator for Sun Microsystems Laboratories, which has since been acquired by Oracle, when Java got its name, and he recalls the story clearly. The company brought in trademark consultants after realizing that it might face some problems in trademarking the word “Oak.”
The team brainstormed new names and came up with a short list that included Silk, DNA, Lyric, Pepper, NetProsse, Neon, Ruby, WebRunner Language, WebDancer, WebSpinner and Java, Saab said. After much deliberation, a Sun employee who had been sitting in the back of the room during the conversation said, “Why don’t we call it Java?” The room filled with excitement, and those present agreed on the name.
“The goal was a name that sounded revolutionary, lively, dynamic and was easy to spell and remember,” Saab said of the name choice. Waldo added that the name was perfect because “programmers drink a lot of java.” Twenty-seven years later, Java is still the shorthand name for the programming language that powers much of today’s software.
“While it’s important to have some long answers or a theme that really shines, you don’t want to forget to make the whole puzzle fun to solve — and that includes the smaller words whenever possible, too. Fun words are different for everyone, but I think it’s just something you don’t see or hear every day that evokes a pleasant or fun mental image. JAVA has a lively sound and fun letters to uncover.” — Howard Barkin
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