Importance of BASIC

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-10-03 Print this article Print

Tandy Trower, general manager for a product incubation project and a member of Microsofts 20-Year Club, who joined Microsoft in 1981 and was initially charged with heading up Microsofts BASIC products, said BASIC was the most important early breakthrough for the company. "In developing BASIC, Microsoft provided a lingua franca for the PC industry that made the PC accessible for the first time to people who were not computer gurus," Trower said in an interview on Microsoft PressPass.
One developer at a Microsoft partner, who credits Visual Basic for increasing the ranks of programmers, said, "Take a poll. Ask how many programmers there are who dont have a computer science degree, but moved into the IT industry by first building Access applications and moved into VB."
Perhaps that is why so many VB developers felt let down when Microsoft shifted from VB 6 to VB.Net. The switch meant incompatibility for a host of applications and led to a revolt and petition signed by thousands of developers calling for Microsoft to bring back support for the legacy technology. Click here to read more about the developer protests over Microsofts decision to abandon VB 6. During the long history of Microsofts developer division, "There have been a few areas to cause tensions, such as the move from VB 6 to VB.Net," Treadwell said. Stephen Forte, a Microsoft developer and chief technology officer of Corzen Inc. in New York, said the history of Microsofts developer group is like a "walk down memory lane." He said as a young graduate working in IT on Wall Street he used tools from many of the major vendors. However, "As I started to interact with Microsoft and use their stuff, I became loyal," Forte said. "The other guys did absolutely nothing to win the hearts and minds of the developers—and are still paying the price. Back then it was not always a quality decision. Meaning with access to betas, the speed at which I could do stuff, the amount of time they spent with us and materials/conferences they produced for free, I was willing to sacrifice quality in the early days for ease of use and speed. "Nowadays Microsoft is equal or better in the quality department and I dont have to make this tradeoff, but in the early days, when they were behind, their developer focus made the difference and tipped the scales in their favor." Forte said his conversion and loyalty started with Visual Basic 4.0 for Windows 95. "It started there; Microsoft seemed to actually care about developers and had lots of geeks while the other vendors sent people in suits and talked about licensing only." Patrick Hynds, CTO at CriticalSites Inc. of Nashua, N.H. and longtime Microsoft developer, said Microsofts ability to empower developers appealed to him as well. "I would say that the thing that has drawn me to Microsofts products over the decades is that there has always been, and remains, a sense that productivity is the focus." Hynds said at every job he works on the mantra is to get the work done in a hurry. "I have used non-Microsoft languages and the products that go with them, including Java, Perl and the usual suspects, but none of them seems to continually emphasis maximizing my time. After all, time is what I sell in the final analysis." Next Page: What Microsofts reorganization means for developers.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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