I am completely new to programming - I mean zero new. I am changing career
and have a lot of time on my hands now to do something with. Have tried out
some java and feel it is kind of something right up my alley.

It seems to me, however that there is something before java that I need to
know. What is that something? I suspect there is some kind of basic language
one needs to know before getting into Java, despite the fact that many books
claim that even a non programmer can start Java. What is it?

You will never realize how much your advise will be appreciated.