Jamming with the Canadian Rock Star

by Peter_vdL Motorola 08-01-2012 11:12 AM - edited 08-01-2012 11:12 AM

Everybody says the whole thing was my fault, but honestly, I just don’t see it that way.  At a team meeting, I casually mentioned that I was going to a Gosling performance that evening.   Everyone went quiet for a second, and then the questions started flying - “how long had I known Gosling?”, “what part of Canada does he come from?”, “Is he married?”, and “can you get me in to the event?”

Ryan Gosling is currently what Hollywood calls a “hot property”.  He has piercing blue eyes, combined with killer good looks and real acting talent.  Gosling has charmed audiences since his 2004 breakout role in “The Notebook”.  (I’d gone to see that movie with the understanding that it was a documentary on “emerging form factors in low end portables”.  It turns out it’s more “rom-com” (romantic comedy) than dot-com).

They made me promise to get some pictures, and write a blog post on “Jamming with Gosling”.  So here it is.  You really can’t blame me for everyone else’s faulty assumption that I was spending an evening with Ryan Gosling, Canadian heart-throb film star, rather than James Gosling, Canadian computer science PhD and inventor of the Java programming language.   James is what talent search companies call a "rock star" - someone who is so good at software development that they have a global reputation. 

Figure 1: Dr Gosling tunes up the presentation

We were both working at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990’s (on different projects), when James Gosling led a small team creating the language system that came to be known as Java.  In those days, before a trademark search nixed the name, the language was still called Oak, after a tree outside James's office window.   Oak/Java was released to interested parties inside Sun, and I emailed James with a suggestion - change the switch statement from the disastrous default “fall through” on the case clause (C has the same defect).  James emailed me back to agree with the idea, but explained that the installed code base was too large to permit such a change.  At the time there were perhaps 5 or 6 Java programmers, all in one building at Sun.  But such is the insidious inertia of backwards compatibility.

After Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in 2010, James left the company, eventually joining Liquid Robotics, a unique start-up mapping the oceans with hundreds of autonomous wave-powered robots.  Liquid Robots is currently running a unique event to identify promising ocean research projects.


The ocean robots are running Linux, and they are programmed in Java.  The robots talk with satellites every day to report their sensor readings.  To the satellites, each robot looks like a cell phone (they have IMEI numbers), and each data transmission goes through a modem and looks like a phone call.  Sadly, they are not running Android. James Gosling did deliver a very enjoyable talk on “Whales, Robots, and Java.”  


I’m sorry to disappoint team members who were hoping for the film star, but at least I got a picture of the rock star (see figure 1). 

Peter van der Linden
Android Technology Evangelist

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