Reflections of Visual Basic 6, when the end is near

Very soon Visual Basic 6 will go out of commission, Microsoft will cease all support and will officially bury a language, tool and platform that has been argued to carry their success with their platform penetration through the 90’s.

In the backwater of this I can’t help but wonder. Was Visual Basic an expensive detour or did it actually help bring our industry forward? The goal with Visual Basic was simple, bring a tool that makes it easier to build LOB type of applications. Lower the threshold and make the Microsoft platform dominant on delivering software. There will be arguments for success and failure but a simple fact remains, there is a lot of Visual Basic systems out there, there where million and millions of VB6 devs working everyday with the platform before .NET.

But did it backfire? Did the rapid growth of Visual Basic developers contribute to the mistrust in the Microsoft platform for mission critical applications? The fact is, there was a lot of really poorly written VB systems deployed. Enough to create serious doubt in the Microsoft platform. Was it VB’s fault?

I would say that with Visual Basic, Microsoft got it’s wish fulfilled. With an army of devs there where apps flying onto their platform. But was it the right devs?

Maybe, no matter the tool, people who can’t write software won’t be able to write software?

Maybe, with a really bad tool, people who can’t write software will write insanely bad software?

Maybe Microsoft should be careful what they whish for?

It might not be a tooling problem that people can’t write software, it might be a people problem.

With that in mind, I look very skeptical at things like LightSwitch. I don’t see any problems in making solid developers more productive. There is one thing that VB has taught us though; not every person with a keyboard makes a solid developer, and a tool won’t change that.

One thought on “Reflections of Visual Basic 6, when the end is near

  1. VB 6 (and 3, not so much 4 + 5) were fabulous tools for developing desktop and server based applications at a time when that was the basis of most computing. I have spent thousands of hours building systems that are still running and will continue to run for many years. It was a great entry to the profession for many people.
    Put this in context. When VB6 was released, what were the alternatives? Where was TDD, Agile, mocking and all of the stuff that we take for granted now? How do you expect to attract only the right people?
    I also think your focus on VB is a little narrow. What about VBA? How many millions of lines of code have been generated in Office based applications?
    Did it cause some problems? Yep, but how many novice Java, C++ programmers would you trust to write mission critical processes?
    Did it bring the industry forward? Definitely.

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