Early version of Sun's Java compiler supported
a visibility modifier called private protected
in addition to the
others. However
private protected was dropped from the
JDK between the 1.0 the 1.0.1 releases.

According to my first edition copy of
Java in a Nutshell,
the meaning of private protected is as follows:

A private protected method or variable is
only visible within its own class and within any subclasses.
Classes may not be private protected. A subclass
can access the private protected fields
inherited by its instances, but it cannot access those
fields in instances of the superclass.

But its meaning may have changed several times between
the time it was introduced and when it was finally removed.

I always thought private protected was meant to
be a restricted form of protected. See,
protected has this nasty quirk in
that it allows access to other classes
in the same package -- even ones that are not
subclasses -- as well as subclasses in other
packages. The ability to disallow access to stuff
in the same package would be a good thing, IMHO.

Here's a copy of the section (6.14) in the Java Programmers FAQ that explains why private protected was dropped:
It first appeared in JDK 1.0 FCS (it had not been in the betas). Then it was removed in JDK 1.0.1. It was an ugly hack syntax-wise, and it didn't fit consistently with the other access modifiers. It never worked properly: in the versions of the JDK before it was removed, calls to private protected methods were not dynamically bound, as they should have been. It added very little capability to the language. It's always a bad idea to reuse existing keywords with a different meaning. Using two of them together only compounds the sin.

The official story is that it was a bug. That's not the full story. Private protected was put in because it was championed by a strong advocate. It was pulled out when he was overruled by popular acclamation.

Personally, I think it was unnecessary and would not really be a good thing, for the reason explained in the mystical fifth level of visibility in Java: Classes inside the same package are written by you yourself or people you should be intensively communicating with. Protecting yourself against your own stupidity is not a compiler's job.

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