The programs done at where i work, the project (remake of scorched earth) couple of friends and i did freshman year (was an early java revision, 1.1 or 1.2, so it MAY be better now) where the frame buffer memory wasn't freed, taking up 40 MB for a 640x480 display. install shield 10's Java installer (noticable slower).
There is a huge difference between Java 1.1/1.2 and 1.5 - remember, C was considered too slow for a good 10 years. It takes time for new compiler technology to advance. And of course, you were a freshman at the time probably working with something new - maybe you screwed up a little bit?
As far as being a fad - you're on crack, right? =)
FAD: A fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period of time; a craze.
This certainly described Java in the beginning, but now....
1) There are more Java developers than any other language.
2) There is more lines of Java code than any other language but Cobol.
3) J2ME has the greatest market share of any platform/language in the embedded market.
4) J2EE has the greatest market share of any platform/language in the enterprise market.
5) Monster search results.... all regions, past 3 days
Lisp... 1 <what a damn shame>
6) JIT compilation is a big area of research in academia right now.
7) And 8 years is just too long for a fad...