I would like to respond to the user as soon as the user hits a key without pressing CR. An example would be to ask a yes/no question and as soon as y or n is hit, the Java program reacts. I know that in an AWT component I can capture keyboard events, but can I do the same thing in console (text) mode?
You are absolutely on track when you say that you can capture keyboard events in an AWT component. It is unfortunately not possible to do the same thing for the console, at least not in 100% Java. Java doesn’t provide any real support for dealing with the console, because not every platform supports the notion of a console. If you want to read keyboard input from the console exactly as it is entered, you will have to write some native code hooks.