The coolest thing Java did, and many believe is also the evilest, is to introduce the concept of "active" content on a web page. When "we" in the Java group set out to do this we fully recognized the security implications of putting executable content into your machine from somewhere you didn't trust. Because of this the team had literally spent over a year and a half wrestling with ideas for protecting the client machine from malicious code.
Unfortunately, the competitive threat to Microsoft was so great they simply coded up some executable content stuff and threw it out there. That became "Active-X" 1.0 and it was a very insecure piece of engineering that Microsoft is paying for to this day. Unfortunately for Sun it didn't mean that the value of Java would overwhelm the clearly inferior product, instead it just made life miserable for everyone.
This page is a jumping off point for a number of applets that I wrote (primarily in the first few years after I left Sun) to show off some of the features of Java.
NoiseSphere - The NoiseSphere applet was an interesting one because it demonstrated a principle that is important to cryptographers. That psuedo randomness was not true randomness.
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