The "Father" of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) floating-point standard is accusing Sun Microsystems of ignoring his efforts to upgrade Java to be better suited for hi-level scientific computing.
"I don't think Sun is taking the proposals seriously," said William Kahan, a professsor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley.
Kahan reports that Java is inadequate in its treatment of floating point calculations and complex numbers.
Floating point refers to a method for storing and calculating numbers in which the decimal points do not line up as in fixed point numbers. Floating point operations can be implemented in the hardware (maths coprocessor) or they can be done in the software.
Kahan and a group of engineers, as part of the Java Grande Forum, spelled out what they consider serious deficiencies in the Java programming language.
To cure Java's numerical deficiencies, the group proposes to modify Java, "but not the way Gosling [James Gosling, inventor of Java] would."
Kahan pointed out an alternative he calls 'Borneo' during a presentation at the Java Grande Forum. Kahan explained that Borneo's design was constrained to be upwards compatible with Java.
"Compiling Java programs with Borneo semantics should leave integer arithmetic unchanged and should change floating point arithmetic at most very slightly," he said.
He added that Borneo is designed to require the least possible change to the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that can remedy Java's floating point deficiencies.
"Some hardware has better floating point capabilities than others. The Intel architecture, with three floating point formats, is a superior numerical architecture, because the third format offers you more range and more precision," Kahan explained.
This means about 95 percent of the hardware on desktops have this stuff and Java won't let you use it, he added. Java supports two floating point formats, called floats and doubles. But Java defines the semantics of the floating point formats so rigorously that there is no way for Java to use the third, extended precision, floating point format.
Sun did not return calls to comment on Kahan's claims.
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