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Creating a good input/output (IO) system is one of the more difficult tasks for the language designer.
This is evidenced by the number of different approaches. The challenge seems to be in covering all eventualities. Not only are there different kinds of IO that you want to communicate with (files, the console, network connections), but you need to talk to them in a wide variety of ways (sequential, random-access, binary, character, by lines, by words, etc.).
The Java library designers attacked the problem by creating lots of classes. In fact, there are so many classes for Java’s IO system that it can be intimidating at first (ironically, the Java IO design actually prevents an explosion of classes). There has also been a significant change in the IO library between Java 1.0 and Java 1.1. Instead of simply replacing the old library with a new one, the designers at Sun extended the old library and added the new one alongside it. As a result you can sometimes end up mixing the old and new libraries and creating even more intimidating code.
This chapter will help you understand the variety of IO classes in the standard Java library and how to use them. The first portion of the chapter will introduce the “old” Java 1.0 IO stream library, since there is a significant amount of existing code that uses that library. The remainder of the chapter will introduce the new features in the Java 1.1 IO library. Note that when you compile some of the code in the first part of the chapter with a Java 1.1 compiler you can get a “deprecated feature” warning message at compile time. The code still works; the compiler is just suggesting that you use certain new features that are described in the latter part of this chapter. It is valuable, however, to see the difference between the old and new way of doing things and that’s why it was left in – to increase your understanding (and to allow you to read code written for Java 1.0).