Earlier this morning while getting ready to head over to the Moscone West conference center in San Francisco, I bumped into Sun's James Gosling (seen by many as the father of Java) who's in the vicinity for JavaOne (taking place next door to Gartner Symposium/ITxpo at Moscone North and South). We chatted for a while and he agreed to set aside some time for a podcast interview tomorrow. In the few minutes I spent with him though, he told me about what is certain to be one of the cooler hack-a-thons at a technology event.
Apparently, somewhere in the Moscone Center, Sun has set up a slot car track with 80 sensors in it. It's a typical slot car track where the only control is a voltage regulator that determines how much juice the race cars get. But this is no ordinary slot car track. The voltage regulator is controlled by software and programmers in attendance at JavaOne will be competing to write the software that gets a slot car around the track in the shortest amount of time. According to Gosling, just like with real slot car racing, too much juice means the cars will fly off the track. So, the software will have to dynamically adjust the voltage based on the information it's collecting from the 80 censors around the track.
Although Gosling will be volunteering to help run the competition, it's apparently one of Greg Bollella's programs. Bollella is a senior staff engineer on the real-time Java team and according Gosling, the idea behind the slot car competition is to point out that real-time and embedded programming can be just as cool as application server programming. Apparently, app servers have been getting to much of the limelight recently. Said Gosling "there's more to coding than programming application servers."
The Grand Finale will be held on Friday. Between now and then, developers can use workstations that are the show floor to develop their code and try to break the JavaOne land speed record. Developers with notebooks can also grab some code that they can put on their notebooks so they hack on the software from their hotel rooms.