I’ve extolled before those application development tools that hit that sweet spot of being both beginner-friendly and powerful enough to develop real applications, including Hypercard/Supercard (now out of date) and Visual Basic:
- Reminiscing about HyperCard
- Programming: The New Literacy
- Why Johnny Can’t Code
- The Spectrum of Computational Development Tools
But I’ve now run across a nice article explaining the history and current state of Visual Basic (and Visual Basic .NET), entitled “The Rise and Fall of Visual Basic.” Little did I know VB was first announced right down the road from me in 1991 in Atlanta. Visual Basic doesn’t have the best reputation among self-proclaimed serious coders (see below), but the article’s a nice read. VB.NET usage is now diminishing in part because it is not different enough from C#, and the designers lost sight of VB as a layman’s ‘application construction kit’ that it originally was, although it is still easier for beginners to develop .NET apps in VB.NET than C#.
VB.NET is still going strong though, just not as strong as Java or C#:
Java now leads with 45% market share(developers using Java some of the time), followed by C/C++ at 40%, C# at 32%, and Visual Basic at 21%.
From my perspective though (for those interested in developing educational software), the main insurmountable obstacle of Visual Basic .NET is that it can’t do applets (that work in any browser on any platform), like you can with with Java platform or Flash. There are other obstacles, too, like the fact that VB.NET is closed and proprietary and .NET works on Windows only, but there is a free, open source, cross-platform VB.NET compiler available from the Mono project. And yes there is Silverlight for developing browser-based .NET applications, and Mono’s open source clone Moonlight, but that’s more limiting that what you can do with Java applets or Flash animations/games.