The Java platform and language began as an internal project at Sun Microsystems in December 1990, providing an alternative to the C++/C programming languages. Engineer Patrick Naughton had become increasingly frustrated with the state of Sun's C++ and C APIs (application programming interfaces) and tools. While considering moving to NeXT, Naughton was offered a chance to work on new technology and thus the Stealth Project was started.
The Stealth Project was soon renamed to the Green Project with James Gosling and Mike Sheridan joining Naughton. Together with other engineers, they began work in a small office on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California. They were attempting to develop a new technology for programming next generation smart appliances, which Sun expected to be a major new opportunity.
The team originally considered using C++, but it was rejected for several reasons. Because they were developing an embedded system with limited resources, they decided that C++ demanded too large a footprint and that its complexity led to developer errors. The language's lack of garbage collection meant that programmers had to manually manage system memory, a challenging and error-prone task. The team was also troubled by the language's lack of portable facilities for security, distributed programming, and threading. Finally, they wanted a platform that could be easily ported to all types of devices.
Bill Joy had envisioned a new language combining the best of Mesa and C. In a paper called Further, he proposed to Sun that its engineers should produce an object-oriented environment based on C++. Initially, Gosling attempted to modify and extend C++ (which he referred to as "C++ ++ --") but soon abandoned that in favor of creating an entirely new language, which he called Oak, after the tree that stood just outside his office.
By the summer of 1992, they were able to demonstrate portions of the new platform including the Green OS, the Oak language, the libraries, and the hardware. Their first attempt, demonstrated on September 3, 1992, focused on building a PDA device named Star7 which had a graphical interface and a smart agent called "Duke" to assist the user. In November of that year, the Green Project was spun off to become firstperson, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sun Microsystems, and the team relocated to Palo Alto, California. The firstperson team was interested in building highly interactive devices, and when Time Warner issued an RFP for a set-top box, firstperson changed their target and responded with a proposal for a set-top box platform. However, the cable industry felt that their platform gave too much control to the user and firstperson lost their bid to SGI. An additional deal with The 3DO Company for a set-top box also failed to materialize. Unable to generate interest within the TV industry, the company was rolled back into Sun.