Letters from Readers
.NET Languages at the Crossroads
Readers respond to the May cover story (".NET at the Crossroads") on the direction of C# and Visual Basic:
In my opinion, the claim that C# is for more mathematical and scientific purposes is incorrect. At the dawn of .NET, the problem was that Visual Basic .NET had more limitations with regard to the framework than C#. Given that Visual Basic .NET was like Visual Basic as a car is to a cartoon, most high-end Visual Basic developers (ones using interfaces, building middle-tier libraries and using COM+) realized they had to learn a new language anyway and switched to C#. By the time Visual Basic .NET caught up with C# in 2005, it was too late. Combined with the massive disservice Microsoft did to Visual Basic developers by using different names for fairly universal concepts (abstract, static), in my opinion Visual Basic .NET will always be treated as a second-class citizen. In addition, prior to .NET, Visual Basic enjoyed a huge simplicity advantage over C++. However, between Visual Basic .NET and C#, that difference is negligible.
One of the issues driving personal developer decisions on language is market demand. Not long ago I was at a meeting where several recruiters offered their perspective on the local job market. All of the recruiters agreed that 90 percent of the jobs being offered were in C#. So as a developer that means that if you don't know C#, 90 percent of the job market is closed to you. That is simply too big of a factor to ignore. In fact, I think that market demand will have more to do with choice than the long-held, but unjust, "stigma" of Visual Basic.
Having learned F#, I found I can author in Visual Basic .NET in a declarative style in codebehind, paste it into F#, and with a few changes get it running. This helps make up for what's missing in the imperative languages, C# or VB. At first this was to gain async-parallel easily, but F# can solve complex problems succinctly. It's better for reducing side effects that make debugging cloud-style computing a mess. And F# has first-order events you can create yourself ... working on that one to reduce complexity with the Managed Extensibility Framework/Model-View-ViewModel patterns and constraints. The built-in features of F# are becoming available to both Visual Basic and C#, so it totally reinforces the tenet of the article, from my view.
This story was written or compiled based on feedback from the readers of Visual Studio Magazine.