In the late 1970's Bill Joy thought about doing a language that would merge the best features of MESA and C. However other projects (like cofounding Sun) intervened. In the late 1980's he got Sun's engineers started on a complete revision of the UNIX operating system that involved merging SunOS4.x with AT&T's SYSVR4.

In 1989 Joy sold his Sun stock, invested heavily in Microsoft and moved out of mainstream Sun to Aspen, Colorado. By the early 90's Bill was getting tired of huge programs. He decided that he wanted to be able to write a 10,000 line program that made a difference. In late 1990 Bill wrote a paper called Further which outlined his pitch to Sun engineers that they should produce an object environment based on C++. Today Joy freely admits that C++ was too complicated and wasn't up to the job.

Around this time James Gosling (of emacs fame) had been working for several months on an SGML editor called "Imagination" using C++. The Oak language (now Java) grew out of Gosling's frustration with C++ on his "Imagination" project.

Patrick Naughton, then of Sun, now vice-president of technology at StarWave, started the Green Project on December 5th, 1990. Naughton defined the project as an effort to "do fewer things better". That December he recruited Gosling and Mike Sheridan to help start the project. Joy showed them his Further paper, and work began on graphics and user interface issues for several months in C.

In April of 1991 the Green Project (Naughton, Gosling and Sheridan) settled on smart consumer electronics as the delivery platform, and Gosling started working in earnest on Oak. Gosling wrote the original compiler in C; and Naughton, Gosling and Sheridan wrote the runtime-interpreter, also in C. Oak was running its first programs in August of 1991. Joy got his first demos of the system that winter, when Gosling and Naughton went skiing at Joy's place in Aspen.

By the fall of 1992 "*7", a cross between a PDA and a remote control, was ready This was demoed to Scott McNealy, Sun's president, in October. He was blown away. Following that the Green Project was set up as First Person Inc., a wholly owned Sun subsidiary.

In early 1993 the Green team heard about a Time-Warner request for proposal for a settop box operating system. First Person quickly shifted focus from smart consumer electronics (which was proving to be more hype than reality) to the set-top box OS market, and placed a bid with Time-Warner.

Fortuitously, Sun lost the bid. The Time-Warner project went nowhere, the same place it probably would have gone if Sun had won the bid. First Person continued work on settop boxes until early 1994, when it concluded that like smart consumer electronics settop boxes were more hype than reality.

Without a market to be seen First Person was rolled back into Sun in 1994. However around this time it was realized that the requirements for smart consumer electronics and settop box software (small, platform independent secure reliable code) were the same requirements for the nascent web.

For a third time the project was redirected, this time at the web. A prototype browser called WebRunner was written by Patrick Naughton in one weekend of inspired hacking. After additional work by Naughton and Jonathan Payne this browser became HotJava. The rest, as they say, is history.

Information in this section is primarily based on the first hand accounts of Bill Joy and Patrick Naughton (which don't always agree). No doubt other people have still different memories of what occurred. If you've got any more first hand information about what went on in the Green project I'd like to hear from you.

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