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Thinking in Java
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Initialization and
class loading

In more traditional languages, programs are loaded all at once as part of the startup process. This is followed by initialization, and then the program begins. The process of initialization in these languages must be carefully controlled so that the order of initialization of statics doesn’t cause trouble. C++, for example, has problems if one static expects another static to be valid before the second one has been initialized.

Java doesn’t have this problem because it takes a different approach to loading. Because everything in Java is an object, many activities become easier, and this is one of them. As you will learn more fully in the next chapter, the compiled code for each class exists in its own separate file. That file isn’t loaded until the code is needed. In general, you can say that “class code is loaded at the point of first use.” This is often not until the first object of that class is constructed, but loading also occurs when a static field or static method is accessed.

The point of first use is also where the static initialization takes place. All the static objects and the static code block will be initialized in textual order (that is, the order that you write them down in the class definition) at the point of loading. The statics, of course, are initialized only once.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire