Chapter 1: The basics in Java

Chapter 2: Your first applet

Chapter 3: Threads and animation

Chapter 4: Images and parameters

Chapter 5: Mouse messages

Links to applets and source code


Basic Course in Special Effects and Game Programming in Java

by Aníbal Wainstein

The rights to the English version of this course are reserved and owned by Mandomartis Software Company and Scandinavia Online. The course may not be displayed on other web sites other than this one. If you should happen see this content somewhere else on the Internet then please contact us.

Chapter 1
The basics in Java

Last updated 1999-05-03


1.0 Installation of the development system

To be able to do programming in Java you must have a development system installed in your computer. There are many but the most used are Microsoft's and Sun's.

1.0.1 How to install Sun Microsystem's JDK

Start by downloading the Java Development Kit (JDK) from the Javasoft site. See to that everything you need is downloaded except for the API source-code. Run the installation. Later in chapter 2 I will review how to compile and execute applets.

1.0.2 How to install Microsoft Java SDK

SDK is short for Software Development Kit. When you download the package from Microsoft's site you must not forget to download the latest Java Virtual Machine and install it, or else parts of the SDK may not work. Install the SDK and the Java VM by running the exe-files and following the instructions.

1.1 How does a program work?

The programming languages often have a less complicated logic than the one used in the computer's micro processor. They help you to handle program development with greater ease. Inside the processor a "language" called machine code is used. Those who read this course will never see machine code. It is a very complicated language to learn and today one does not have much use of it. Like all other so called high-level languages, Java is converted to machine code just before executing. Either through an interpreter or through a machine code compilator. Java is special in comparison to other languages. A program written in Java is first converted to bytecode which is then translated by the interpreter. The interpreter may in turn convert the byte code to pure machine code (that the processor can understand and run without any further interference by the interpreter) or translate it piece by piece and call a machine code function for each byte code. The first mentioned interpreter runs Java code a great deal faster and is called JIT-compiler (Just In Time compiler). Programs are always executed in sequence. That is, the lines in the program code will be executed from the top down to the bottom (unless you happen to give the program jumping instructions).

1.2 Variables and numbers

Most of the Java programs use some kind of numbers. We will now look at the most commonly used numbers

1.2.1 Variables

A variable is a storage space or memory where you place information. You can handle the variables on your program by calling them by names. You never need to know where the information is placed when you store it in the variable, but you always use the variables' names to fetch it and store information. It is like that when you ask someone to store something. Next time you need it you just say the name of the thing and the person will get it from its hiding place. When you are adding a variable into a program you must always declare them. The declaration consists of the type and the name you will call it by.

variabletype name;

There are different types of variables like integers, strings, image variables and more. In the declaration above you probably noticed that I wrote a semi-colon ";". You must always end a statement with a semi-colon or else the compiler will complain. One stores and fetches information on a variable in the following way:


variablename1 = value; (this will store the value in "variablename1")

variablename2 = variablename1; (fetches the value from "variablename1" 

and stores it in "variablename2") 

1.2.2 Integers

An integer is a number that is in the range of 232 (- 4294967295 though to 4294967295). Assume we want to set the variable "a" to the number 1. The syntax is the following:

int a = 1;


1.2.3 Arithmetic operators

The number types in Java would be worthless if you could not use the arithmetic rules on them. Assume that we have the variables "a" and "b" where we have store the numbers 4 and 2:

int a = 4;

int b = 2;

int c;
We have also declared the variable "c" here, where we will put or store the results of the calculations. Note the syntax we are using in order to store the information in "a" and "b". We have first declared and then stored the number in the same statement. This is a shortcut but it is practically the same as:
int a;

a = 4;

int b;

b = 2;

int c;
Now we want to do an operation and store the result in the variable "c". The arithmetic operations work in the following way (note that "*" is the multiplication operator):
//The number 6 will be stored in "c"

c = a + b;              

//The number 2 will be stored in "c"

c = a - b;              

//The number 8 will be stored in "c"

c = a * b;      

//The number 2 will be stored in "c"     

c = a / b;              
The two slashes "//" indicates that the text that follows is a comment. Let us assume that we now have a more complex mathematical formula that we want to calculate:
c =  a + b
a - b
* a + 1 

The syntax for the formula above can be written with parenthesis like this:

c = ((a + b) / (a - b)) * a + 1;
Assume that we now want to operate "b" on "a" and store the result in "a". You can write:
//add "b" to "a"

a = a + b;           


//subtract "b" from "a"

a = a - b;  

//multiply "a" with "b"            

a = a * b;

//divide "a" with "b"              

a = a / b;              
You will get the same result if you write:
//add "b" to "a"

a += b;

//subtract "b" from "a"

a -= b;

//multiply "a" with "b"

a *= b;

//divide "a" with "b"

a /= b;
Let us say that you want to increase or decrease "a" with 1. Then there are many ways to do this:
increase "a" with 1             decrease "a" with 1

a = a + 1;                      a = a - 1;

a += 1;                         a -= 1;

a++;                            a--;

The later method is called postincrementation (++) and postdecrementation (--) and we will use this very often. There is also something called preincrementation and predecrementation but we will not look at that here since you will manage well by just using postincrementation and postdecrementation.

1.2.4 Double and Float

There are two types of floating point numbers in Java: double and float. Double uses 64 bits to represent the number and have double the precision as float that only uses 32 bits. Floating point numbers work in the same way as integers when operating on the arithmetic operators. They can be declared in the following way:

double PI = 3.141592654;

float PI = 3.141592654;

1.2.5 Bytes

Bytes are whole numbers between 0 and 255. The arithmetic operators work with these in the same way as integers, but with the difference that a byte cannot be negative or bigger than 255.

1.2.6 Converting between integers and floating point numbers

Let us say you have two integers "x" and "y" and that you will be using these to draw a point on the screen later on. Assume also that we have two floating point numbers "a" and "b". They have the values:

float a = 7.5;

float b = 1.0;
We will now draw the sum as an x-coordinate and the difference as a y-coordinate. Since these numbers are floating point numbers then one may not set the variables "x" and "y" to go directly to these values. A special conversion is needed:
//"x" will contain 9 because 

//8.5 is rounded to 9

int x = (int)(a + b);       
//"y" will containt 7 because //6.5 is rounded to 7. int y = (int)(a - b);

This is called type casting. The floating point numbers are converted to integers. Observe that the variables "a" and "b" are not converted to integers during the conversion process. A variables type cannot change once it has been declared. We can also convert the other way:

a = (float) (x + y);
The sum is calculated, converted and the result is stored in the variable "a". Later I will be reviewing other uses for this. 

1.3 Methods , classes and references

Note that my review of object oriented programming is adapted to the practical use that I see in it, therefore I will not write about strict object oriented theory.

1.3.1 Methods

A method is a bit of Java code that is executed only when called (in other languages they are the equivalent to functions). It may also contain variable declarations which are only valid within the method. These variables are therefore called local variables. A method is defined by the method header and two brackets "}{":

public void myMethod()


The word public indicates that the method can be called by other classes, void indicates that the method does not return a value when it has finished the execution and "myMethod" is the name of the method. You can put variables within the parenthesis () that must be delivered by the user when calling the method in order for it to work. This particular function do not happen to have any variables. Another example :
public int yourMethod(int a, int b)



    return a;

If the method returns anything then "return" must always be specified. In this particular case the method will return an integer int which is the sum of the variables "a" and "b". The function is called like this:
//We declare the "result" variable

int result;

//"result" will contain 

//the number 3 after the call

result = yourMethod(1,2);   
Another example:
private byte anotherMethod(int a)


    return ((byte) a);

Private indicates that method may only be used within the class where it has been defined. In the return part you can also have calculations even if it is not so beautiful but this gives a more compact code (less code). In this example we type cast the integer "a" to a byte and return it. The method is called like this:
//"a" will contain the number 41

byte a = anotherMethod(1234217);
This is by the way the same as:
byte a; 

a = anotherMethod(1234217);

When you convert a 32 bit integer to a byte then only the last 8 bits in the number will be left (the 8 last bits in 1234217 has the value 41). Please note that if you do not specify a returnation object then the method is called a constructor. It must have the same name as the class and it will be called when you create an object of the class. A constructor must allways be declared as public:

public myklass(int a)




1.3.2 Classes and Objects

A class may be seen as a representation that may contain many types of variables, methods and even other classes. Classes are representations for objects. The object is the product of the class and normally one works with the object. Assume that we have a car and its blueprint. If we look at the relation in views of object oriented programming then the blueprint is the class and the car is the object. The classes are normally located on the hard drive or the server and they are loaded when you are going to create an object. You create an object by reserving primary memory for it. This is called allocating memory. In a Java program, you always have at least one class. In strict object oriented theory, it is only the methods in a class that may work with the variables contained in the same class. However, in practice, this is not always followed. The following is a class definition of "car":

public class Car {

    //The variable "v" contains the speed in km/h

    public int v;           

    public void drive()


        //start with 10 km/h



    public void stop()




    public void faster(int vincreace)




    public void slowDown(int vdecrease)



        if (v<0) v=0;


The example above is a class definition. The cells below "Car" describes what variables (in blue) and what methods (in cyan) that are in the class.

1.3.3 References and allocating objects (the new command)

You communicate with an object with references (a reference is equivalent to pointers in C++). Let us say that we want to create an object to work with. We take the "blueprint" we have defined in the last section and create a reference like this:

Car onecar;
The reference "onecar" does not point anywhere at the moment so you cannot work with it. Now we allocate a bit of memory to the object "onecar" which will use the class "Car" as the blueprint. At the same time that we do this we set the reference "onecar" to point at the object.
onecar = new Car();
Now we can reach the instance of the class "Car" with "onecar" (an instance is another word for object):;



By calling the methods above we manipulate the variable "v" that represents the speed inside the "Car" object. We can create all the instances we want of the class Car:
Car volvo = new Car();

Car ford = new Car();;;

//increse speed by 10 km/h


//increate speed by 10 km/h


//increase speed med 30 km/h   


//decrease speed with 20 km/h   

Which car do you think will have the highest speed after these calls? Note that the variable "v" in the "volvo" object does not change when you call the "ford" objects speed methods. Both objects are completely independent and they each have their copy of "v".

1.4 Other important elements in Java

I will briefly outline the remaining things necessary before we can begin programming programs.

1.4.1 Strings

The built-in string class String is, according to me, one of Java language's most important classes because it exists in nearly all the Java programs. A string can be defined in the following way:

String myfirstname = new String("Anibal");

String myfirstname = "Anibal";
The form above follows the general rule for creating new objects (see section 1.3.3). The other way and also the most used is that you directly set the variable to the text value. This can only be done with the String class. This is a trick that the compilator recognizes in order to simplify the use of the String, because of its extensive use. When you have defined a string you can do a lot with it. Among other things, you can merge strings by using the plus operator "+".
String myfirstname = "Anibal";

String myfamilyname = "Wainstein";

String myfullname = myfirstname + myfamilyname;
The string "myfullname" will contain "AnibalWainstein". It does not look right so we will add a blank space between the first name and the family name:
myfullname = myfirstname + " " + myfamilyname;
Now you will obtain the right content, "Anibal Wainstein".  As we said before, a String is an object that also includes methods which could help you handle strings. A String-method that we will use a lot is indexOf() which you can use to find out if a part of a phrase contains another phrase or word:
int index = myfullname.indexOf("stein");
Here we declare an integer where the method indexOf() will store the result of the string search. The result will be 11 because the phrase "stein" begins at the eleventh position in the String. If "stein" did not exist in the string then the result would have been -1 which means that the search did not find the phrase. Another String method that we will use a great dealis substring() which can be used to fetch a phrase from a string: 
String firstname = myfullname.substring(0,6);

The variable "firstname" will contain the string "Anibal" which was fetched from "myfullname". Note that we have specified the start index 0 ("A") and the end index 6 (the blankspace " ") for the string which will be fetched. The end index 6 is exclusive, which means that the letter in the sixth position (the blankspace " ") will not be included.

A n i b a l   W a i n s t e i n
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15


1.4.2 Logical operators (Boolean variables)

A boolean variable contains the values "true" or "false". It can be declared as follow:

boolean isfine = true;
boolean isfine = false;
There are also operators that work with boolean variables. One of them is the AND operator (&&). It works as follows. Assume that we have two boolean variables "a" and "b":
boolean a = true;

boolean b = false;

boolean result = a && b;
The variable "result" is only true if "a" is true and "b" is true (In this example the result is false). Another important operator is the OR operator (||):
boolean result = a || b;
Here "result" is true if and only if one of the variables "a" or "b" are true.

An operator that generates (returns) a boolean result is the "equals" operator (= =). Assume that we have two integers :

int x = 100;

int y = 101;

boolean result = (a == b);
The variable "result2 is true if and only if "x" has the exact same number as "b" or the reverse. The "equals" operator is actually one of several comparison operators such as "less than" (<), "greater than" (>), "greater or equal to" (>=) and "less or equal to" (<=).

1.4.3 IF-statements

An "if" statement is one of the fundamental commands in Java. With the if-statement you can test a boolean statement and then execute different program code depending if it is true or not (with the ELSE-statement):

if(a > b)


    String r = "A is greater than B";

If you want to execute other code if the statement is not true then you can add ELSE:
if(a > b)


    String r = "A is greater than B";




    String r = "A is not greater than B";

1.4.4 FOR loops

A for loop consists of a bit of code where the "for" command states how many times the code should be executed. It is defined in the following way:

for (init; condition; incrementation)


    code that will be executed

The type of loop that will used about 90% of the time in this course is:
for (int i=0; i<5; i++)


    code that will be executed

What will happen here is that the loop will count to four and store the subsequent values in the variable "i". The condition "i<5" states that "i" must be less than 5, that is, "i" is not allowed to receive greater values than 4. The expression "i++" will increase "i" until we reach 4. You can also count down in for-loops:
for (int i=5; i>0; i--)


    code that will be executed

The variable "i" will start with 5 and count down to 1. The expression "i++" decreases "i" with 1 each time, but the condition "i>0" makes sure that "i" never reaches 0.

1.4.5 WHILE loops

The while loop works in a different way. It executes code as long as an expression is true:

while (condition)


    code that will be executed

The same functionality in the for loop that we had in the last section can be done with a while loop:
int i = 0;

while (i<4)



Note that here we cannot write "i<5" because the incrementation happens after the comparison. The expression above will count from 0 to 4 with "i". The decrementation example in the last section can be done like this:
int i = 5;

while (i>0)




That is it for now! In the next chapter you will learn how to program and compile your first applet.


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