It's possible that I got a few of the details wrong in Hector's life. But for many business developers, Visual Basic 1.0 was a breath of fresh air. It's not that they could do more with Visual Basic; programs written in C were more powerful and had greater flexibility. But business programmers didn't always need that flexibility back in the transition from MS-DOS. They just wanted to manage data, and they didn't want to worry about how to present every little pixel on the screen. Visual Basic provided the tools to write applications quickly and with much less effort than that required by other Windows development tools and languages.
Visual Basic's simplicity was embraced by developers everywhere, but the honeymoon quickly wore off. Given the speed at which programs of reasonable quality could be cranked out with Visual Basic, programmers and businesses began demanding more. And Microsoft provided. Visual Basic 2.0 and 3.0 were released in quick succession in 1992 and 1993, each providing enhanced database integration and additional visual development features. Version 4.0, released in 1996, introduced 32-bit programming to the language, and support for the already-popular Windows 95 platform. Two more quick releasesVisual Basic 5.0 in 1997 and Visual Basic 6.0 in 1998added even more features and complexity to the otherwise "basic" language, features supporting some but not all object-oriented programming (OOP) techniques, ActiveX control development, and web-based logic coding. Microsoft had even integrated the core Visual Basic enginechristened Visual Basic for Applications, or VBAinto its suite of Office products, proclaiming it as the new official macro language, and making the engine available to any third party that wanted to do the same.
Seven years after its initial introduction, Visual Basic had taken the programming world by storm. Millions of developers were using the language, including in-house developers at Fortune 500 companies, writing applications that supported core business functions. VB still retained some of the flavor of the original BASIC languagea "beginner's" programming language developed by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz at Dartmouth College back in 1963. This caused no end of snickering from C and C++ developers and other cola addicts. But VB programmers could see a powerful future for their language of choice.
Then the unthinkable happened. Microsoft announced that it would no longer enhance the core Visual Basic engine. Instead, it would rewrite and re-implement Visual Basic using its soon-to-be-released .NET development platform. Yes, Visual Basic would be endowed with all the power promised for Microsoft's new C- and Java-like language, C#. But for many hard-core VB developers, it was wrong, just wrong. Words were exchanged. Petitions were crafted. Letters to the editor sounded the call to the Visual Basic faithful, urging them to never write a single line of Visual Basic .NET code, ever. In frustration, a Visual Basic user's group set fire to the entire Microsoft campus in Redmond.
Well, that didn't happen. In fact, nothing bad happened at all. Visual Basic .NET turned out to be a software wunderkind, providing power and features that far surpassed anything available in Visual Basic 6.0. Its initial release in 2002 was proof of that. Visual Basic .NET 2002 was powerful, but it was also a little hard to use, at least compared with version 6.0, and especially when compared with the original 1.0 product. Visual Basic .NET 2003, released just a year later (obviously), was a relatively minor update with not much in the way of new or easier functionality.
Visual Basic 2005, the latest VB offering from Microsoft, marks a return to the simpler days of Visual Basic development, days of harmony and peace between "newbies" and their general-purpose programming language. Not only has Microsoft removed the term ".NET" from the product name, it has removed some of the barriers that kept entry-level programmers from approaching the language. Pre-.NET features, such as Edit and Continue and the display of forms through the simple use of the form's name, have once again found their way into the language and into the hearts of software engineers. Visual Basic still retains all of the power it gained with .NET, but with true improvements in usability. It's like when they add a label to your toothpaste that says, "New package, same great regular flavor!" except that Visual Basic's flavor is improved, too. Visual Basic is once again accessible to first-time developers.
Since the 2005 release, Microsoft hasn't just been sitting on their laurels, as painful as that would be. They are hard at work on the next release of Visual Basic, code-named "Orcas," with its support for the .NET Framework 3.0 (formerly named WinFX) and Windows Vista. That release will also introduce new language syntax to support LINQ (Language Integrated Query), the ability to use SQL-like syntax to manipulate in-memory collections of objects.