November 11, 2014

I don’t like what’s happening to VB.Net…

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 11:19 pm

When I started this blog, although I thought I’d end up covering a certain amount of politics and civil liberty matters, I actually thought that a good many of my posts would concern the day job – I work as a software developer writing software using the “Microsoft Stack”. As events have occurred, rather than trying to post a set number of technical articles within a set period, I’ve pretty much only blogged whenever something has annoyed me enough – or if I’ve had information to impart concerning #TwitterJokeTrial, #DaftArrest, or the fortunately inimitable Nadine Dorries MP…

My career as a software developer has basically come in three stages – initially I was writing software using Visual Basic 6, then I was writing VB6 but occasionally getting to dabble with VB.Net, and these days I code almost exclusively in C#.

Why do I work in C#? Well, it would be perfectly reasonable to say that both my current and previous employer require developers to be able to work with C#, so if I were being lazy I could claim to have been pushed into it – but the truth is I deliberately sought out positions which would allow me to move away from VB.Net. Why? Well, the writing appeared to be on the wall… Most serious developers can adapt to use another language when they have to, and a lot of people were making the move away from VB.Net to C#. The syntax was more concise (ever tried writing LinQ queries in VB?), employers were paying slightly more for it, and although Microsoft has maintained a commitment to both languages, having lived through the process of VB6 being taken out back and shot, invalidating vast swathes of work as they did so, I didn’t want to nail my colours too firmly to the mast of what seemed like an increasingly leaky ship…

Unfortunately, VB.Net developers now seem required to operate under a sort of stigma, as second class citizens in the .Net development world. It shouldn’t be so – some wonderful things have been written in VB.Net by some wonderful people – the language is every bit as capable as C# (though not as nice!). There are a lot of big systems out there that depend on VB.Net, so I was rather alarmed as I drove to the office the other day to discover commentators including it on a list of “five dead languages”. Even with my C# hat on, that seemed a little unfair… Now I discover that SharpDevelop, an open source IDE I have used for years, has decided to no longer support VB.Net development in it’s latest version… That speaks volumes for what some very well connected people in the industry think of VB’s medium term prospects…

Perhaps the writing is indeed on the wall again for Visual Basic developers – and if this is indeed the case, then it is a tragedy. It shows that, as an industry, we have learned nothing… Once again we will have major business systems out there in the wild with an ever dwindling pool of developers prepared to maintain them. It’s a particularly cruel blow given that a lot of people who got shafted at the end of VB6 chose to migrate their systems to VB.Net – and are now going to have to consider migrating again.

My advice to anyone (and I have a number of former colleagues from earlier in my career who fit the bill) still working exclusively in VB.Net is to start learning C# now. Today. It’s not because you’re uncool, or smell of wee, or old timers – it’s because I’d like to think you’ll all still be employed five years from now. It’s not that hard, so come on in, the water’s lovely…


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