Introduction to Programming in Java

3. The Java Platform

One thing that distinguished Java from some other languages is its ability to run the same compiled code across multiple operating systems.

In other languages, the source code (code that is written by the programmer), is compiled by a compiler into an executable file. This file is in machine language, and is intended for a single operating system/processor combination, so the programmer would have to re-compile the program seperately for each new operating system/processor combination.

Java is different in that it does not compile the code directly into machine language code. Compilation creates bytecode out of the source code. Bytecode generally looks something like this:

 a7 f4 73 5a 1b 92 7d

When the code is run by the user, it is processed by something called the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). The JVM is essentially an interpreter for the bytecode. It goes through the bytecode and runs it. There are different versions of the JVM that are compatible with each OS and can run the same code. There is virtually no difference for the end-user, but this makes it a lot easier for programmers doing software development.