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Is Visual Basic a Good Beginner's Language? 1100

Posted by Cliff
from the would-you-write-"hello-world"-in-it dept.
Austin Milbarge asks: "Ever since the .NET framework came along a few years ago, Microsoft had promised VB developers that their language would finally be taken seriously. To be honest, I never understood why some non-VB developers thought of VB as a 'toy' language, but that is for another article. Anyways, Microsoft made good on their promise and transformed VB from an easy to learn language into an object oriented power house, with lots of OOP functionality thrown in. The old VB has been discontinued, and the new VB is no longer a simple language. With all the fancy changes, is VB still the great beginner's language it once was? Would you recommend it to a beginner over C#?"
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Is Visual Basic a Good Beginner's Language?

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  • still C (Score:4, Interesting)

    by engagebot (941678) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:41PM (#14869928)
    For a true beginner, I still say regular old C is the way to go. Learn how variables work, function calls, passing arguments, pointers... There's something to be said with starting out compiling a single .c source file with gcc.
    • Re:still C (Score:5, Funny)

      by beavis88 (25983) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:01PM (#14870142)
      *sniff* brings back memories of my first C program

      % ./a.out
      Segmentation Fault
      %
    • Re:still C (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pseudonym (62607) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:02PM (#14870671)

      On the contrary, C is one of the worst languages you can use as your first language. I've tried teaching C to first year students. You end up teaching the syntax and vagaries of C and not very much programming or computer science.

      One of the first things that beginning programmers want to do is do stuff with strings. Do you really want to explain C strings to people who have never programmed before? (There's a reason that microcomputer BASICs got peoples imaginations working. You can do stuff in it straight away!)

      Amusingly, about the only worse mainstream language I can think of for this purpose is VB. C's syntax and semantics at least have the advantage of being consistent. (In its defence, VB wasn't exactly designed to be the way it is. It was a fairly inextensible language which nonetheless got extended as the years progressed. "Congealed" might be a better word than "designed".)

      Save C for semester 2. Semester 1 should use a language which emphasises the basics. A functional language (say, Scheme or Haskell, but not ML; ML is a cool family of languages, but the syntax is way too arcane for a first language) would be my first choice, but even Java is a better choice than C. Hell, even C++ is a better choice. The syntax is at least as quirky as that of C, but at least it has a decent standard library which lets you do stuff straight away.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:43PM (#14869936)
    Python is a great starter language.
    • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:55PM (#14870599) Journal
      I would argue that Javascript is even better for a newbie. No special software (only a web browser & text editor are needed), no compiler, and it runs on almost every platform available. It uses variables, arrays, loops and functions. You can make changes and see results almost immediately. Just refresh the page!
    • by nicolas.kassis (875270) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:42PM (#14870997)
      I second that, Python is easy on the beginers but, I still think that to make a good programmer you need to teach him/her 2 languages. C first and then Python. The reasoning behind this is that C teaches a lot of basic (easy and complex ) things such a variable and memory, functions, types, stucture, control flow.... It shows new programmers a lot of concepts that are part of the majority of languages (Even just a Subset of features). After new programmers have done it the hard way, Python is great to start talking about OOP, Data structures, Algorithm... Since it's a pretty quick to code most things in python and that it removes the major pain of memory management, it allows for quick and easy learning of some more complex topic like those I have just mentioned. Finally I say that learning C and Python will allow most to learn any other language in a short period of time. It makes well rounded people. Java is also quite nice for beginers. But C and Python are just more usefull together. They fit in more places. Nic
      • by dancpsu (822623) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:05PM (#14871930) Journal
        The reasoning behind this is that C teaches a lot of basic (easy and complex ) things such a variable and memory, functions, types, stucture, control flow...After new programmers have done it the hard way, Python is great to...

        Why would you want to start with "the hard way"? Bringing students into a EECS program might benefit from starting out with C or even assembler, but for anything else it is overkill. Python teaches variables, functions, structure, and control flow as well, so I don't see the disadvantage of starting with Python. The main thing that Python does not teach is memory management and some of the more interesting bugs that C can produce.

        The main reason to introduce a student to more than one language is to begin without the more complex parts of languages like object oriented code, and even structured code. The nice thing about python is that you can start with procedural code, continue through structured code, and end up at object oriented code, introducing only a few concepts at a time.

        With C, you have the problem of explaining the main() function or doing handwaving before you get around to explaining functions. With Java, you have the problem of classes even before you get to a main function. When even the most basic program requires structured or object oriented code, you have a problem teaching it to beginners. Take the following examples:

        Java:
        class myfirstjavaprog
        {
        public static void main ( String args[] )
        {
        System.out.println ( "Hello World!" ) ;
        }
        }
        Student asks:

        What is a class?, What is that funny looking bracket?, What is public?, What is static?, What is void for?, What is main?, What are the parenthesis for?, What is a String?, What is args?, How come there are funny square brackets?, What is system?, What does the dot do?, What is out?, What is println?, Why are there quotes there?, What does the semicolon do?, How come it's all indented like that?.

        C:
        #include <stdio.h>

        main() {
        printf ( "Hello, World!\n" ) ;
        }
        Student asks:

        What is #include?, What are the greater than and less than signs doing there?, What is stdio.h?, What is main? What are the parenthesis for?, What is the funny bracket for?, What is printf?, Why is hello world in quotes?, What is the backslash-N doing at the end?, What is the semicolon for?

        Python:
        print "Hello World"
        Student asks:

        What is print?, Why is hello world in quotes?

        Get the picture?
    • by ignavus (213578) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:28PM (#14872264)
      Makes a great starter pet, too.
  • by edremy (36408) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:43PM (#14869941) Journal
    Dear Republican National Committee: Would Hillary be a good president?

    Dear Osama Bin Laden: Would you like to come to my bar mitzvah?

    Dear Eagles fans: Would you be willing to sign Terrell Owens again?

  • Not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c0l0 (826165) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:44PM (#14869949) Homepage
    While Visual Basic leads to quick and early (limited) success, your coding style and habits, and your perception of how to solve problems when programming in general, will be badly spoiled for a LOOONG time. I advise you to stay the fuck away from it. Go learn an interpreted, really well-designed language, such as Ruby. -> http://www.ruby-lang.org/ [ruby-lang.org]
  • by joekampf (715059) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:44PM (#14869954)
    I think it depends on what kind of a beginner it is. It is some hobbiest, or is it someone who is going to code for a living? If the answer is, someone who is going to code for a living then I think your first language should be a language that does not have a lot of bell and whistles. It should be a language that doesn't have a built in string class. One that makes you create arrays of characters. A language that doesn't provide you data structures right out of the box. A good language would be C or Pascal. Unfortunatly, new programers are learning Java, VB, etc right away. They have no concept as to what goes on under the covers. What it means when I go and create 1000's of strings. Or what it means to have a Hash Table vs a Stack, etc. Thanks, Joe
    • They have no concept as to what goes on under the covers. What it means when I go and create 1000's of strings. Or what it means to have a Hash Table vs a Stack, etc.

      An important point to note here, is that most programmers nowadays don't need to be aware of this. At least not to the extent they used to.

      More and more, business and industry needs software to simply automate simple tasks. As processing power increases, as memory space grows, it's not necessarily the case that the basic tasks people need done will grow to match them. Thus it becomes less important for a programmer to optimise or worry about optimisation.

      In addition, although more programmers will be required to create software, they will not be required to delve into programmings basic complexities. It's not required you know about opcodes and memory addresses to write HTML, and soon it will be th ecase that you won't need to know when coding business apps. At all.

      In short, the future legions of greasemonkey coders will be using Ruby on Rails, not C and FORTRAN. When the job gets too big, complex and nasty for them or a hardware upgrade to handle, they'll call in the high priced consultants who can still code in low level procedural languages.
    • by sedyn (880034) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:15PM (#14870291)
      You had me until you said "It should be a language that doesn't have a built in string class. One that makes you create arrays of characters. " Strings are just an abstraction, string foo = "bar" is pretty simple to use, and when the student starts doing more complex things (and learns all about arrays), they will realize that foo[i] is just a character in a vector. It is a much more modular way to teach.

      I agree that bells and whistles increase a languages' barrier to entry, but if they can be ignored (like a lot of the Java library) then it is a moot point.

      C is not, nor ever will be a newbie language. By the train of thought that it is best "to [know] what goes on under the covers", then the logical conclusion of that is to teach a simple assembly language, quickly followed by a compilers and systems course.

      In math, we typically teach younger students how to use a function or expression before we teach them how to prove it (consider it to be the process of giving them the specifications).

      Disclaimer: I have helped and witnessed many students learn C.
  • I'd go with C# (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:44PM (#14869956)
    Well Mr. Millbarge, I was going to set up the Disney Channel for you for free but now I'm not going to. If you're looking to learn .NET programming, I'd go with C#. It has a C-style syntax which is makes it easier to pick up other C-style syntax languages like C, C++, Java, etc. VB's OO aspects feel to me like they were bolted onto the language as an afterthought. You can experiment with both on Visual Studio. If you want, it might be a good idea to build a few sample projects each way to see which one you feel more comfortable with. You'll learn programming with either one, but you'll learn more you can use elsewhere from C#.
  • by martinultima (832468) <martinultima@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:44PM (#14869957) Homepage Journal
    I'd personally like to suggest trying out Python [python.org]. Not only is it more powerful than, and just as easy to code as – in fact, often considerably easier than – Visual Basic, it also has the advantage of running on many other operating systems such as Linux and Mac OS X. It can take a little while to get the hang of, but once you know what you're doing it's effortless (take a look [sf.net] for yourself [sf.net] at a couple things I hacked together, for example).

    And yes, despite being a Linux hacker now I once did use Visual Basic, and I have to say it took way longer to learn VB than it did Python.
  • I'm a fan of Java (Score:3, Insightful)

    by egomaniac (105476) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:45PM (#14869973) Homepage
    I know I'm going to get bashed for this, but I really think Java is a great first language. It has far more regularity, all of its behaviors (even error conditions) are rigorously defined, which makes debugging easier, and it has a great user interface library in the form of Swing.
  • Good ... for what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rongage (237813) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:46PM (#14869982)

    I guess this depends on what you qualify as "good"...

    • VB is good if you want to write apps for Windows
    • VB is good if you don't care about other platforms
    • VB is good if you don't care much about stability
    • VB is good if you want to learn the "wrong way" to code (who needs type enforcement)
    • VB is good if you want code that you can read but not understand

    I'm sure there are other reasons to consider VB to be a "good" language. Since I don't do VB anymore (thank God), I have lost track of those reasons. I think I'll stick with C and PHP, this way when I get a customer that wants something that'll work on Solaris or QNX or AIX or HP/UX, I have half a chance of success!

  • Bad idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:47PM (#14869985) Homepage Journal
    Really Short Answer: No.

    Short Answer: Are you out of your bleeding mind?

    Long Answer: Visual Basic is riddled with problems for those who are new to programming. The first problem that hits someone looking to learn programming is that he/she sees a pretty layout manager, but no code. It's quite possible to build an interface without ever writing a single line of code. When the entire point of the exercise is to learn coding, this is NOT a good thing.

    The second problem is that Visual Basic doesn't clearly introduce the "programmer" to concepts like functions, interpreters, and compilers. Most of the functions in VB are automatically generated, giving the impression that these are magic incantations that shouldn't be touched by a "programmer". VB Studio has an interpreter, but it isn't interactive in the same way as BASIC interpreters. This makes it useless as a learning tool. The compiler is mostly a matter of setting a file name and hitting a button to produce an EXE. So the new programmer gains no understanding of how code gets translated into an executable. Concepts like linking, for example, are completely glossed over.

    One of my personal beefs with the older versions of VB (which have been corrected in .NET, for no other reason than because C# requires it) is that VB passes off this idiotic idea of grouped functions as "Object Oriented Programming". The fact that these "objects" can't be instantiated, nor can they be used as Abstract Data Types [wikipedia.org], makes them utterly useless for OOP development. I would even go as far as to say that VB's previous implemenation of OOP was misleading and dangerous.

    VB also loses major points for failing to include typed variables. The automatic conversions between numbers, strings, and other types only serves to confuse a new programmer, especially when the auto-cast does the wrong thing. A new programmer should be taught to understand how data is represented by computers, not abstracted away so far that they can't understand how to fix problems.

    Beyond that, VB tends to do a lot of confusing things that are not easily explainable. The lack of useful documentation and/or a good documentation browser only serves to increase confusion.

    To be honest, I never understood why some non-VB developers thought of VB as a 'toy' language,

    VB had/has its uses, but it's still just a RAD tool. As soon as you run into situations that the RAD tool can't handle, you should be using a real language rather than trying to hack it.
    • Re:Bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dedazo (737510) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:40PM (#14870974) Journal
      Mmmkay, since I've noticed that you're some sort of shining star around here and your insight tends to get modded up regularly, I'll try to be as polite as possible, even though my first instinct is to say you're full of it.

      Your first problem is that you're mashing VB6 and VB.NET. They, for all the similarities in syntax, are really completely different languages with a completely different runtime going underneath. Now, since this is a question about a "beginners language", it's unlikely that someone would mistakenly rant off about VB6, since it has been largely deprecated. Anyone starting with "VB" now would use VB.NET, with or without the pretty IDE. I think that's clear enough from most of the posts I've seen so far in this article.

      Some of your points are valid vis-a-vis VB6. It was completely tied to the IDE (the preprocessor infact was the IDE) and it supported a semi-OO model, which is like saying "a little bit pregnant", but regardless, most of these limitations were related to the fact that VB6 was essentially a COM server and consumer platform. The lack of implementation inheritance is a good example of that - since COM is a binary spec, it does not support it. Polymorphism and aggregation OTOH, which permeate COM, were. So pre-VB.NET, "Visual Basic" was both hobbled and all the better off for being tied to intrinsically to the COM spec. VB6 didn't behave like it did because someone at Microsoft didn't have anything better to do, it did because it had to play by the rules - the rules of COM. You could either understand these limitations (if they were to you) and live with them, or just use C++. By the time Microsoft released ATL, COM-centric coding in C++ became extremely easy - I always chuckle at the quitessential "yeah I know C++ and VB sucks, but I don't know a replacement for the GetObject() function and my life suxx0rz" claim from people who think it's really cool to bash VB because it has a large following of hobby developers that know nothing about software design, as if it was impossible to do anything meaningful with it. But I digress.

      Along comes VB.NET, which is essentially the VB6 syntax ported to the .NET CLR. Like the other "mainstream" languages that target the CLR/CLI, VB.NET is essentially a full OO implementation, unless you're willing to call Python or Java "toys" because they don't support multiple inheritance or the concept of friend classed as implemented by C++.

      So you have a fully OO language (for all practical purposes) with generics, operator overloading, partial classes, etc. that can be easily decoupled from the IDE - all you need is a text editor and the compiler, though most people prefer the IDE route. It just happens to look like BASIC. Other than that, I think it's a good beginner's language. Wouldn't you agree?

      That's as far as VB currently goes... the rest of your rant is just the usual bashing a platform that is no longer supported or in active development, nor understood (obviously) by people like you.

  • dont learn vb (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tester (591) <olivier.crete@ocret e . ca> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:47PM (#14869990) Homepage
    It has never been a good beginner's language.. I truly really recommend a C-family language. Why? Because most of today's popular languages are in the family (C, C++, Java, C#, etc). C++ is way over complicated for a first language. I would really recommend that you start with old fashioned C. Yes, its not object oriented, but it forces you to focus on the basic thing, OO is just a way to pack code together, its not a defining property of the language.. Then you can easily learn C++, Java, C#..

    If you really want to start with a OO language, pick Java or C#.. But be warned, those are dynamic languages (Java, C#, Perl, PHP, Python, Javascript, etc) and they have some differences compared to "hard-compiled" languages like C. C forces you to understand how the computer works, and it will always help afterwards to know that. Python is also a good beginner's language, its clear, clean, easy to learn, easy to use. Stay away from Perl and PHP, they are very easy to use.. but they teach bad habits.

    And VB is badly considered not because the language sucks (and it did suck last time I used it.. but that was many years ago), but because most VB programmers suck and are not very good. Often not formally trained and they dont really understand many important concepts. Its fine if you want to cook for you familly, but that's not how you cook for a large restaurant. A good formally trained programmer should be able to pick up any not-to-weird language in very little time (since they all have basicly the same concepts)... VB programmers most often can't. Where I work, I have to handle C, C++, Java, Perl, PHP, having a good base is important. The concepts are important, the syntax is just a tool. Get a good tool, dump VB.
  • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:50PM (#14870015)

    With all the fancy changes, is VB still the great beginner's language it once was? Would you recommend it to a beginner over C#?"

    "Is kicking puppies still a great way of attracting women, or do you recommend kittens these days?"

    VB was never a great beginner's language. It's wrong all over. The only thing that got it a reputation for being a "great beginner's language" was that you could draw the GUI in later versions * before you actually learnt how to write code, so you could get visually pleasing results immediately, whereas the competition at the time meant you actually had to learn how to use a GUI API (and consequently, how to write code) first.

    You want a good beginners language, look at Python. It's been used successfully in teaching environments for a while now. It enforces good practices like indentation and prohibits easy sources of bugs, like if foo = bar: O'Reilly have an article [oreilly.com] about Python for teaching programming that you might be interested in.

    * Yeah, the first versions of Visual Basic ran on DOS and didn't have the GUI builders that later versions did. I'm not quite sure what qualified them as basic of the "visual" variety, it's not like you had to type your code in with your eyes shut in other basics.

    • Yeah, the first versions of Visual Basic ran on DOS and didn't have the GUI builders that later versions did. I'm not quite sure what qualified them as basic of the "visual" variety, it's not like you had to type your code in with your eyes shut in other basics.

      VisualBasic 1.0 was most certainly Windows, I belive you are thinking of QuickBasic.

      I actually started way back when on QuickBasic and jumped to assembler (this was all on a 286), but that was all hobby stuff. When I began programming professionally
      • VisualBasic 1.0 was most certainly Windows, I belive you are thinking of QuickBasic.

        No, there was such a thing as Visual Basic for DOS. I wouldn't blame you for repressing any memory you have of it :). It's mentioned in this Microsoft Knowledge Base article [microsoft.com] about preparing Visual Basic applications for Y2K. I quote:

        For all versions of Visual Basic for Windows (including its predecessors such as Visual Basic for DOS and QuickBasic) prior to and including 3.0, two-digit years were always assumed t

  • D'oh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stuffduff (681819) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:51PM (#14870026) Journal
    Microsoft's language offerings are the result of some other people's way of deciding how things should work. While Microsoft is not alone in this practice, they are the topic of this article. I can't even count the times that I have seen the following: A programmer sits at an IDE, and on the screen is something like this:

    Private Sub Command1_Click()

    End Sub

    What they will do in the process is to go out and grab a bunch of someone else's code, paste it in there, and change the names of a few things. It really bothers me that the product of this process is even called software. At best shouldn't it be called 'macro-gramming?' Sorry to be such a stickler, but does that programmer have any idea what really goes on when that button is pushed? When the end users need a change that is not an exposed property or method of the pre-packaged object, what can they do? They probably have more creative skills when it comes to making excuses than they do at actually programming. Hell, we've all done it. It seemed like a good idea at the time to just slap together a few goodies, make it look pretty and ship it out the door. But what you end up doing is letting someone else make all the really important decisions for you. If you're lucky enough to be able to satisfy all the demands you encounter that way then more power to you.

    In order to learn the principles of computer programming, less is more in my book. The more computer science you know, the less dependent on any particular set of tools you become. When code is dear and time consuming to write debug test and maintain, you will be absolutely amazed on how little of it you can get by on. Take the same algorithm and implement it in a couple different formats, languages, compilers, etc. See how many instructions it actually becomes when it gets run. See where different efficiencies of speed or size become important. Try some Python to see what can really be done in an interpreted environment. Try a C compiler. Try looking for a couple of algorithms and see which one performs better and be able to describe why. Then, no matter what tools you end up using, you will have a much better idea of what is going on, how to make it both secure and efficient from the start.

  • Free Pascal (Score:4, Informative)

    by ROBOKATZ (211768) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:54PM (#14870064)
    I'd recommend checking out Free Pascal [freepascal.org] and the Lazarus IDE [freepascal.org]. These are based on Borland Delphi, of which I believe you can also download a free version, but these are open source and available on many platforms. The Borland products run only on Windows or Linux with KDE (using QT), the Free Pascal libraries use GTK+.

    Object Pascal is a good language for beginners. It has strong typing and object-oriented features, but the typing isn't strict to the point of being obnoxious like in Java. It is lower level, so you will deal some with pointers and memory management but it is harder to make a mess with than C/C++. You can also visually design the UI of your application, but the language isn't a disaster like VB (and doesn't run in a VM like C# or Java, so it's quick).

  • by Spectre (1685) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:55PM (#14870071)
    I use Visual BASIC (I choose to honor BASIC by capitalizing VB as I did), SQL, Fortran, C, Python, and Perl every week. I've written assembler for various CPUs, JCL, Smalltalk, various shell scripts, Pascal, Modula-2, MUMPS, and probably several others I'm forgetting in the past.

    Every language I've learned has been useful on the various projects I've worked on and provided a perspective for evaluating what methods to use for new development.

    Learn every language you can. You'll probably be surprised to find that you don't just get broad shallow experience, but each language actually gives you more in-depth knowledge of the others (and what they may do behind the scenes).

    VB(A) is the scripting language built into many Microsoft products. Whether or not you harbor loathing for Microsoft, knowing VB(A) will be very helpful for many tasks and may be necessary to get a paycheck from many places.
  • It's decent. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:59PM (#14870120)
    VB4 was my first "real" programming language (I used QBASIC for years, but that doesn't really count). Since then I've used VB5, VB6, and VB.NET; I am also fluent with C/C++, Java, PHP, and a few other languages.

    The long and the short of it is this: VB ain't bad.

    People will say that Visual Basic is "unstructured," and they're clueless. People will say that Visual Basic is slow, and they're one step up from clueless (VB5 and VB6 compiled to native code and could, when used correctly, rival Win32 C++ applications for speed; VB.NET compiles to the same CLR the rest of the .NET crap does).

    My personal view of the Win32 API is that the inventor didn't like people. Window creation is needlessly masochistic. VB takes that hassle away. I've written applications where the entire backend of the program is in C++ and used the VB interface just to call C++ DLL functions. It's doable. It works pretty well.

    Basically--VB is a viable language if you want to get something done *now* and don't care all that much about whether it's pretty. Would I use it for game programming? No (once was enough, a 2D RPG for a school project in sophomore year of high school). Would I use it to write something quick and dirty that I need immediately? Sure, and I'll be done before a C++ coder even has a window up and running.

    VB also has some pretty nice features that YFTL lacks. You can run the program without compiling it, in interpreted mode--very useful for bug-ferreting. Its class system pre VB.NET was baroque at best, but its built-in garbage collection/memory allocation on-the-fly and the fact that all arrays could be dynamic without external references made it fun to mess with.

    ~Ed
  • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:01PM (#14870137) Homepage Journal
    For starters, you just asked about a VB based syntax on /., you will recieve for the most part nothing but FUD and miss information and the pundits launch into tirades about how VB.Net is a toy compared to C# (which are both the same CLR language), Java, Ruby, PHP, Perl, and some whack job will likely even recommend Python.

    Next up. Right tool for the job. If you're interested in embedded applications, coding on linux, or high performance apps, going .Net is not going to be your tool of choice.

    And finally, to refute some pundits. VB.Net is a syntax option for coding in CLR, the same as C#, J#, PHP.Net and all the other screwy variations of *.Net. Vb.Net is every bit as Object Oriented as C# or Java. VB.Net by default has explicit and strict options off, turning those two options on makes its compiler just as strict as the C# compiler. VB.Net also has almost all of the functionality from C# (I have heard that there are some obscure pointer functions that are not in VB.Net's syntax, but I have never run into them, or the lack there of). Another one of those "What were they thinking?" items though, VB.Net has a "Hide Advanced Methods" option on by default that hides a lot of methods from the autocomplete lists, turning it off allows you to see all of the same functionality as in C#.

    The only substantial differences from VB.Net to C# is syntax Things like:
    VB.Net: Private VarName as String
    C#: Private String VarName

    VB.Net:
    If Var1 = Var2 Then
        'Code here
    End If

    C#:
    If Var1 == Var2
    { //Code here
    }

    -Rick
  • by Stephen Williams (23750) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:10PM (#14870229) Journal
    VB.NET is not the same language as the VB of yesteryear. It's semantically the same as C#, just with a somewhat VB-like syntax to ease VB programmers into working with .NET.

    If you're learning to code using the .NET framework from scratch, I can see no reason to choose VB.NET over C#, unless you happen to like VB-like keywords more than Java-like keywords.

    -Stephen
  • by jcwynholds (765111) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:14PM (#14870274)
    Python has been suggested. I also fall in the camp that say that python is probably the best learner language. Interpreter is freely available for all popular platforms. Python has enough of the niceties of VB (no strong types, easy array/dictionary construction, etc) while having enough features of a "real" programming language (shared memory, forking, etc) to teach about the concepts.

    Developing in an IDE like VS obfuscates and distances the programmer from the code. It's a necessary evil for developing some things. But throwing a learning user at the bubbly GUI to figure out the wizards for him/herself is akin to putting a new pilot in the seat of a 747. There is just too much there that would seem confusing.

    For these three reasons I would suggest python:

    1. All you need is a free (as in speech) interpreter and your favorite text editor.

    2. Documentation, howtos, sample code is easily available (there are plenty of good VB help sites out there, but I have found many many many fantastic samples of python).

    3. The syntax of VB and python would seem similar enough to a beginner.
  • Where to begin? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Theatetus (521747) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:09PM (#14870736) Journal

    This question is wrong in so many ways...

    • VB is badly OO and confuses the language and the library too much.
    • VB is badly OO and OO is a bad paradigm to first learn to program in (and those two wrongs don't make a right).
    • VB ties you down to using Windows, and Windows is a bad environment to learn to program in.
    • VB does memory management the wrong way from a learning perspective. Rather than specifying allocators and destructors when neccessary you simply let objects fall out of scope.
    • VB does not have first-class functions and cannot fake them: function manipulation and functional paradigms (whether direct or through hacks to fake it like function pointers or true reflection) is crucial to learning to program well and should be started as early as possible.
    • VB teaches bad, verbose naming and programming habits.

    Good beginners languages are:

    • Logo (still the best)
    • Scheme
    • Forth
    • Ruby
    • Python
    These all allow you to do basic, functionally-oriented programming and then "graduate", if need be, to large-scale OO stuff.

    I would say Common Lisp is the best, but if you start programming using Lisp you'll never truly appreciate it because you assume all languages are that well-designed.

  • Or you just want to get some work done? If you really want to learn something, you should do it with PASCAL. Some people told you do study C, but after trying to teach it to a few people, I am fully convinced that C is not a beginer's language. PASCAL is different because you won't need to know about pointers to do quotidiane stuff, but still have manual memory allocation to study.

    To learn how to program, use PASCAL on a CLI. Don't worry about the time investment, you'll learn VB much faster after you know what you are doing. Just to finish, I'd like to put here a very true quote from Dijkstra:

    "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."
  • by xjimhb (234034) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:14PM (#14871245) Homepage
    For a language to teach beginning programming, you can't beat Pascal. Yeah, I know it is not fashionable at the moment, but it is hard to beat as an introductory language. And there exist extended versions of Pascal (like Delphi) that do a great job on OO programmimg (beginners should worry about OO AFTER they learn the fundamentals)

  • Keep in mind that VBA is used with MS-Office applications, and VBScript is used on IE designed web pages which are related to Visual BASIC. Learning one, can help you learn the others.

    Visual BASIC.NET was a rewrite of Classic Visual BASIC, which added in C++ type error trapping, objects, and other things that many have criticised Classic Visual BASIC for not having. Many VB developers want Microsoft to continue to support Visual BASIC 6.0 or Classic Visual BASIC, but Microsoft wants to move on.

    BASIC stands for Beginners All Symbolic Instruction Code, the first word is for beginners. It was not designed to be anything but a learning tool, like Pascal, Pilot, and many other languages were designed to be. Microsoft used it for early Microcomputers, and then made a GW-BASIC version of it for MS-DOS and then later QBASIC or Quick BASIC for MS-DOS 5.0 and above. Many considered GW-BASIC and QBASIC to be free versions of BASIC and developed for them. Microsoft released Visual BASIC 1.0 and many BASIC developers adapted to it. I recall learning MS-Access 1.0 and using a form of Visual BASIC for applications for it, which they called Access BASIC or something.

    Borland picked up the Pascal craze, in colleges they taught Pascal for data structures courses. There was UCSD Pascal, but Borland came out with Turbo Pascal and it worked faster than most Pascal compilers. Object Pascal became Delphi by Borland, and it is still popular and a competitor to Visual BASIC. Free Pascal tries to use Object Pascal to be more like Delphi and the Lazarus project uses an IDE with Free Pascal to work like Delphi or Visual BASIC.

    I think there is an XBASIC out there that works like Classic Visual BASIC. Someone made a GNOME BASIC. The Novell Mono project has a Visual BASIC.NET language which is used on Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, *BSD Unix, etc.

    The whole argument against Visual BASIC is now moot. Classic Visual BASIC lacked proper OOP, but Visual BASIC.NET fixes that, but at the cost of learning new programming methods and syntax for Classic Visual BASIC developers. While designed for beginners, Visual BASIC has extended itself. Visual BASIC.NET uses a compiler very much designed like C# or C++ to compile into IL (Interprited Language) code (which is like assembly language) to run on the .NET Framework, and it is turned into native code in the final compiltion. Visual BASIC.NET no longer has the bottleneck that Classic Visual BASIC had, and as a result it runs faster.

    You will be shocked to find that most businesses use Visual BASIC.NET for the same reasons that they used to use COBOL, it is easy to learn, uses English words, and almost anyone can learn it.

    Still don't discount C#, C++, Java, Python, Perl, and many others, they can interface with Visual BASIC via the .NET framework. Visual BASIC can be used as a stepping stone to a different language, or it can be used for main development.
  • by syukton (256348) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @09:46PM (#14871843)
    Is it a good beginner's language? Hell no it isn't. It gives the programmer unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved with the computer. Too many of the inner workings of the computer are withheld from the programmer for them to really understand how things WORK.

    Personally, I think it's a toy language because it separates the programmer from the bare metal of the machine, with too many layers of abstraction, confining the programmer to a "digital playpen" much as you would confine an infant. I have similar feelings about C#.

    I started with C64 BASIC, moved on to C, then C++, then I learned MSVC and VB at about the same time, and after that I picked up ASM.

    I really think I learned a lot by following that path, and I'm glad I learned how much work went into writing a GUI long before I dragged and dropped my first VB app.
  • by alispguru (72689) <bane@gs[ ]om ['t.c' in gap]> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:30PM (#14872044) Journal
    You can become a decent programmer starting from any language, as long as you ultimately:

    * learn several languages

    * learn languages with widely differing characteristics

    * learn them well enough, i.e. you don't know a language until you've used it for at least one non-trivial task

    * take a data structures and analysis of algorithms course, after you know at least two languages

    Most of the people I would consider bad programmers know only one language, or know one well and others very superficially, like the engineers who can write Fortran in any language*.

    To show what it's possible to overcome, I started out with BASIC in high school. BASIC does not cause permanent brain damage, if you limit your exposure to it.

    Before college I had moved out to assembly (PDP8); in college I was exposed to COBOL, FORTRAN, PL/I and 360 assembler. In graduate school I moved up to Pascal and C, but I also finally took a decent algorithms and data structures course - and learned Lisp. Those last two things were probably as important as all the previous experience in making me the hacker I am today.

    * This is not meant to be a slur on all engineers who program when necessary - just the ones who do it badly, over and over again.

  • by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @12:24AM (#14872500)
    Personal Experience Speaking...

    VB is pretty good at teaching programming or getting people started in programming. Being a modern 'basic' it can allow people to get the initial concepts of variables, and put them to use in a syntax that reads like common english language, yet not leave them making a turtle follow lines around a screen.

    The simplicity is also good to find the 'clicks' or points where people get it. When not teaching this stuff you forget these clicks, even explaining concepts as variables is something that is hard for some people to catch, even if they understand algebra.

    VB also can do some fairly advanced things now, especially with the current .NET incarnation, in upper level application development.

    A person could start with no programming background, do the hello world, and stick with VB and make a career from it producing ok software.

    Pascal is also another easy to understand language (designed to be a learning language even), and it with Borland's support can be almost as powerful as C/C++. So it is another good starter language that a career can be made from - especially Europe, Delphi does quite well there in comparison to the US.

    I have taken a couple of roads with people, using either VB or Pascal as the 'get it' starting language.

    Then I progress them to some advanced levels in each language, and along the way contrast in another language, C is the poster child here for the contrast. It can show complexity and also levels of creativity not normally used in the other languages. Useful comparisons to stuff they are currently learning as well as 'wows' like a line of C code that is very complex and recursive, but performs as much as an advanced program.

    This lets them 'click' along the way, and will hopefully keep perspective and the certain 'creative' element that syntax complexity of C draws out of people.

    The 'creative' complexity has to be nurtured, even if you are keeping people in Pascal or VB for their career (or they are not going past that). It was the creative of 'how to make it work' concepts that are so dominate in C that define 'good programmers', because in the old days, we had to make it work.

    Yes it is nice to drag a button on the screen and have the IDE do the work for you, but without some of the 'creative' what ifs, and 'how can we' questions, programmers won't be more than glorified form designers, and that is sad for them to invest time in learning something and not fully getting it from both angles. (The logical syntax and function and the creative inspiration of thinking outside the box.)

    Programming is one area of expertise that definately benefits from bridge-brain individuals. Creative Logic at its finest...

    And sadly if the person you are teaching don't fully click in either direction (logic or creative) then you lead them down the road they are good at, and let them pair with a person or team that fills in the other side...

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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