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Java for two year olds: A review of 'Java Programming Fundamentals' by Kimberly Seefeld

In the movie ''Philadelphia,'' Denzel Washington plays a lawyer who is fond of telling people, ''Now slow down and explain this to me like I'm a two year old.'' Of course, it's almost impossible to teach programming to children that young, but as you read this book, you'll swear the author was writing for just that audience. And if anyone can do it, Seefeld -- a former K-12 teacher -- can.

For one thing, the book assumes no prior programming experience. In fact, it assumes relatively little knowledge about computers in general. Chapter 2, for example, starts out with the question ''What's a computer?,'' and follows with clear, simple explanations of CPUs, memory, storage devices and I/O devices.

Once that's out of the way, the author jumps right into Java fundamentals, explaining how Java programs run, as well as the difference between a Java application and a Java applet. The next two chapters walk the reader through running a simple application and a simple applet.

While the book's language may be simple and direct, the author does not shy away from tackling more advanced concepts. Chapter 11, for example, describes how to use the graphics capabilities of Java, while Chapter 12 describes how to use the GUI components in the Abstract Window Toolkit (AWT) and Swing. Chapters 13 and 14 cover object-oriented programming concepts and how to use those concepts in Java.

The book also includes a CD-ROM with the Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) software development kit. Versions 1.3.1 and 1.4 are on the CD-ROM, along with all of the source code examples in the book. In keeping with the book's general tone, it provides step-by-step instructions for installing the SDK on Windows computers.

While the book has much to recommend it, I'm not sure I'd advise you to purchase it if you're already an experienced programmer. Because it covers so many basic programming concepts, you'll find yourself wishing that the author would just get on with it. If you're not an OO programming guru, however, you'll find the simple language and clear explanations very refreshing. The book takes much of the apprehension out of learning a new programming language, and you'll be writing and running Java programs in a very short time.

Java Programming Fundamentals, by Kimberly Seefeld; Charles River Media; Hingham, Mass., 2002.

About the Author

Dan Romanchik is an engineering manager turned writer and Web developer. His current passion is amateur radio. You can read his amateur radio blog at www.blurty.com/~kb6nu.

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