Post about the blog post – Visual Basic and Me

As some of you know, I also run the Microsoft Web Development blog on MSDN.  Last week, I had the pleasure of announcing an update to ASP.NET for Visual Basic developers. In addition to being my first post on the topic of Visual Basic, it was a post that really brought my programming career full-circle. I’ll explain

Humble Beginnings

Jeff and his father playing Battleship

Jeff and his father playing Battleship

My first computing experience was when I was 6-years old and my father brought home a Commodore 64 for the family.  I enjoyed the games on it, but I wanted to get creative and learn more.  At the time, my father was a programmer for a local warehouse and shipping company, and knew a thing or two about programming with BASIC.  That’s where I started, simple if and for loops with a goto statement thrown in there on the Commodore 64.

Years later, as I was working my way through college at Penn State, I got an opportunity to intern at the same insurance company that Dad worked at.  While I was interning in the desktop support department, I was introduced to Visual Basic for Applications programming with Microsoft Access.  Everything that my father taught me came flooding back.. and I was a happy intern using BASIC constructs that I learned back in the day.

When I went back to school I wanted to ‘level up’ my coding skills and got my hands on Visual Basic 5.  I spent my last two semesters at school hacking away with VB without any guidance from a teacher or a class at school.  I read articles on the internet and made my way in writing simple applications.

Enter the Web

I graduated college and started working for a consulting company with my “extensive knowledge” of Visual Basic 5, just to learn that Visual Basic 6, this thing called VBScript, and Active Server Pages (ASP) were released and I needed to learn them for my job.  It was just before the .COM boom, and I was slinging Visual Basic like it was nobody’s business.  I was up to speed on web server interactions with would we now call Classic ASP and I could write HTML tables with the best of them.  Life was good.

I started working for a .COM company in 2000 and took my ASP coding to another level.  Things were great, until 9/11 and half of our customers died in the World Trade Center.  I signed on with another organization, and I was sent to learn .NET at a training session in downtown Philadelphia.  I remember that training so well: learning VB.NET just around the corner from the Liberty Bell on the week that the movie National Treasure was released.

We didn’t code in Visual Basic.NET for long at the company, as the CTO wanted us to use this “cool” c-sharp (C#) language that he had heard so much about.  At that point, my focus and love of Visual Basic faded away and I started programming ASP.NET in c-sharp.  For 10- years, I coded C# applications and large websites for a number of organizations.

Completing the Circle

This brings me full-circle.  I’ve gone from learning the language on a computer that connected to the family television, to now being the author of a Microsoft blog post that announces new features and a new future for Visual Basic.  My father, who programmed and worked for decades on Unix machines is thrilled to learn that the language he taught his son will soon be available on Unix.

Its not that I don’t like Visual Basic, I do.. I really do enjoy the language.  Its just that I need to go where the jobs, the developers, and the interest is.  I’d be happy to code in Visual Basic, C# or even F# if the job calls for it.