Rushing Labs

JavaScript: An Intro - the little language that could

Much of the modern internet is impacted by one programming language—and it provides a level of interactivity and finesse that used to not exist—yes, Javascript.

(The irony of using "finesse" and "JavaScript" in the same sentence is not lost on me.)

Now, if you're reading anything on this website, I'm sure you've heard of JavaScript before, but I think it's important we take time to know how it was created. This was the work of Brendan Eich, in 1995. Of course, there was also that whole saga with Netscape, and Microsoft going on at the same time, too.

At first, Brendan was recruited with the temptation of "come do Scheme in the browser", but this never really materialized. It was a longshot, and by the time Brendan got to Netscape they had already made moves with Sun Microsystems. Due to this new relationship the executive decision was to push another new language (Java) where possible. Even though, JavaScript was never intended to be a different type of Java, according to Brendan it still influenced a few mannerisms of JavaScript-and of course, inspired the naming.

Why Create It?§

In short, the browser war was taking off. Netscape was looking to compete with Microsoft's brand new, groundbreaking browser—Internet Explorer. (Side note: This wasn't a complete "underdog fight" though, Microsoft tried-and failed-to buy Netscape in 1994, before all of this went down with Mr. Eich.)

Netscape wanted that killer-app feature, and at this point the internet was mostly made up of "webpages"—like literal pages. HTML was pretty much the only established "language" for the web, and CSS was beginning its own journey at roughly the same time.

So, there was already a recognized need for a "glue-like" language for designers and developers to pull this functionality together, and build something better for the web.

Netscape needed something and needed it quick—so, they recruited Brendan, told him something about Scheme (which is another story), and he set to work—and work he did because he created this thing in 10 days!

Yes, Brendan Eich created JavaScript—the glue language for the internet—in 10 days.

What is it Useful For?§

So, fast forward to today...and JavaScript is still the only language that fills this web development niche. Not only that, but it can also be used for:

  • Back-end server applications (with Node.js)
  • Desktop applications (with Electron.js)
  • Mobile frameworks now use it (React Native)
  • ...and a little thing called asm.js is creating new possibilities in the browser, too
    • It's a pseudo lower-level subset of JavaScript

All of this means JavaScript still connects webpages, but is far from being just a "toy" language anymore.

How to Get Started?§

All of those other uses I mentioned require their own configurations and tooling—however getting our hands dirty with just the syntax only requires the browser.