Usually, it means that nothing has changed within the method itself, but an already-existing problem was discovered. They don't want to invalidate old code by changing the method drastically, but they want to encourage people to use a different solution. In your case, I assume you mean the getHours() method in either java.util.Date or java.sql.Date. If you look in the API you will see an explanatory message indicating what is wrong with the method. For java.util.Date.getHours() you should really use a Calendar instance instead; for java.sql.Date you probably should use a Time object instead since a Date will always have hours = 0.
Deprecated methods don't mean that something has changes. Nothig is changed. It only means that, if future this method will be withdrawn from the API. If you goto the API (I don't have the link right now for 1.3) and lookup for this method, a work-around, with new methods, is generally available and it is highly suggested that you replace your deprecated method with the suggested work-around. regds. - satya