This week's book giveaway is in the OCPJP forum. We're giving away four copies of OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide and have Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates on-line! See this thread for details.
Annotations were introduced in Java 5, so they haven't been around that long, but these days they're becoming quite common. Many APIs use annotations extensively, so there's really no way of avoiding them completely. If nothing else, you should get in the habit of using the @Override annotation, the preventor of truly silly bugs.
By the way, when you say "an easy way to make mistakes", I hope that's based on more than this one issue :-)