The “Natural Fit”

It has been a busy few days in the world of the rant (see Mr. Grimes' Farewell) and reply (see Grumpy Grimes and Scott Swigart Responds to Richard Grimes).  Now this is a topic that I have a bit of passion for. 

I am not going to restate the very good arguments by Scott and Duncan, I would simply encourage you to spend a few minutes reading them if you have not already.  I would like to address a different point from Mr. Grimes, and one I have heard before:

"C# is the natural language to use for .NET and there was no need for VB.NET"

First, every time I hear someone say this they just move on without explaining themselves or providing any support.  What exactly does "the natural language" mean? 

Yes, there are a few things that are possible with the CLR that you can't do with VB but you can with C#.

One that I hear often is /// comments.  To me this does not justify the time it would take for a Visual Basic developer to forget the entire language that they know and learn C#.  In fact it is possible with a free add in and will be native in Visual Studio 2005.  What few things VB can not do that C# can are often times not an issue for the vast majority of Visual Basic developers.

These few things are pretty much brushed off the table in Visual Studio 2005.  As Paul Vick says in his blog today, "But the point is that with the release of Whidbey, VB will finally be fully caught up in terms of supporting .NET...". 

Maybe by "the natural language" they mean that lots of people at Microsoft develop in C#.  I have heard this said before to explain why you should just jump to C#.  This statement is very true. Why, because most Microsoft developers have a C++ background and C# is a natural upgrade path for them just as VB.NET is a natural upgrade path for a Visual Basic developer.  As a point of fact also there are Visual Basic developers working at Microsoft, myself being one of them.

If you figure C# is the natural language because that what a lot of Microsoft developers use lets just run that out into other ideas:

Most Microsoft developers make commercial software not internal enterprise applications.  Does that mean you should quit your job working for a company as a developer? 

Large amounts of Microsoft developers write operating systems, does that mean that operating systems are the natural product for developers? 

Granted, these is a bit extreme but my point is that what Microsoft developers develop in is a choice that makes the most business sense for the products and conditions they are working under.  The choice between VB and C# is about just that, what makes the most sense in YOUR environment based on YOUR developers and THEIR experience not what makes sense at Microsoft.

Let's apply this "Natural Language" idea to other topic.  Burger King sells lots of Whoppers.  The Whopper comes with beef by default.  Now I like a good hamburger ever now and then but some times I just want a chicken sandwich.  If I order a chicken Whopper does that mean it is not the natural fit for a Whooper and I shouldn't do it? 

No, a Whopper is to pieces of bread, some lettuce and a bit of sauce with some meat in the middle (IMHO a pretty good taste too).  What that meat is in the middle is up to you, it can be beef, chicken or nothing if you don't eat meat. 

Eat the Whooper of your choice and use the language that makes sense to you.  Stop worry about what someone else thinks is more natural between the two slices of bread.

Comments (12)
  1. Chris Haas says:

    Good post. Since I started with .Net a couple of years ago I’ve only found one case where I had problems translating between the two languages and that was integer overflow in C# which in my opinion is a poor programming practice anyway. I’ve been with the BASIC language since I learned it on the Apple ][E and my Commodore64 and now love VB.Net. I think the two languages are pretty much the same, really, anyway. Drop the Dim, move the type to the front and add a semi-colon. Get rid of End X and use braces instead. Most everything’s the same. The MSIL’s almost exactly the same, too except for the extra variable declaration we get to support legacy people not using Return.

  2. Linus says:

    I think you maybe applying your own idea to what he meant by "natural language". I don’t think he was saying it was the natural language for .net because a lot of people in Microsoft use it. However, I probably shouldn’t be speaking for him.

    I do agree with him though that maybe VB.Net shouldn’t have been built. My guess is that the learning curve for a VB developer to move to VB.NET vs. C# is minimal (just syntactical). The largest hurdle by far is the .NET API and conceptual (e.g. inheritance and polymorphysm.)

    Unlike other languages like Prolog, Perl, Python, VB.Net doesn’t offer really anything from the language perspective that would be missing from C# I think.

    If Microsoft just built C# and not VB.NET, we wouldn’t have these strange API documentation everywhere where there is C# and VB.Net sample code for everything. Eventually, VB devs would learn that C# is not C++ and the hurdle is easier and a lot would make the jump eventually.

  3. My thoughts exactly. VB.NET seems to be potrayed very often as a poor cousin or C#, I quite resent this myself. Having moved from ASP 3.0 to VB.NET for developing web applications, I find it much easier and intuitive to develop in VB.NET with virtually no learning curve (except for the innards of OOP). I can program in C# but see no need to learn the language in depth. If I find any code snippets in C#, I translate these into VB.NET and things work equally well. The lack of the /// comments and automatic XML documentation generation in VB.NET is in my opinion the most shallow argument in favour of C#. In the end it boils down to personal preference. I look forward to VS 2005 when the languages come closer in terms of feature set.

  4. Robert Conley says:

    You are missing the point the complaint isn’t about whether VB.NET is a better language or not than C#. The problem is that VB.NET is not an upgrade of VB classic but a replacement.

    There are so many changes in forms, graphics, and languague let along all the nifty new things that the choice is wide open if you choose to go on to .NET.

    VB.NET doesn’t help me with my existing VB classic app and when I do need to use .NET it doesn’t really matter which of the two I am going to use.

    What I need is a VBClassic.NET that allows me to run VB6 using the .NET framework. If you can talk about Ruby, and ML being ported to .NET and produce IL code there is absolutely no reason to support the syntax and setup of VB6.

  5. Brad McCabe says:

    I made it a point not to wade into the VB 6.0 and VB.NET debate right now. Duncan and Scott address that issue in their blogs so I did not feel the need to readdress the issue. I instead just wanted to focus on the "Natural Language" comment that I hear often.

  6. Anthony D. Green says:

    MSIL is the natural fit for .NET.

    I think the argument is that VB.NET is superfluous with the existence of C#. Semicolons are superfluous with the invention of the linefeed character but beyond that these people have overlooked the point.

    COM 2.0. Components authored in multiple languages subscribing to a common model to allow for interoperativity. C# doesn’t need .NET if it wants to exist as the sole language. You could use Java and accomplish as much. What is it now, 40 languages that support the CLR?

    I’ve programmed in BASIC on the Apple IIE, I’ve programming in QuickBasic, I’ve programmed in VisualBasic – I admit it, I’m spoiled, inflexible, and set in my ways. I refuse to retrain my mind for case-sensitivity, and semicolons because of comp sci elitist. I’ve had to do very little retraining with .NET only extending. The VB language is still there, there’s just more of it.

    Basic isn’t C#’s poor cousin. C# is Basic’s upstart younger sibling. Where was C# when I was building Event-Driven software? Where was C# when I was using the WinForms editor? Where was C# when the VB Runtime was managing my memory for me? Yeah right, it wasn’t. C# is a C-language pretending to be easy and accessible. In my opinion, if .NET is to be clean, productive, and user-friendly, Visual Basic .NET, of course, is the "Natural Fit"

  7. Ed Hurley says:

    C# was developed specifically for .NET therefore I see it as <i>the</i> natural .NET language. VB was adapted to fit within .NET and because of that, it is very akward in some aspects, even for VB6 developers.

  8. Brad McCabe says:

    A good related post is from Paul Vick at Paul talks about how none of the VB 6.0 (or prior) runtimes and code was written in VB but how sections of the .NET framework, and even more of the .NET 2.0 framework are written in VB.NET.

  9. Anthony D. Green says:

    C# is one of C’s many bastard descendants. An impressively clean one I’ll admit but certainly nothing original. Do not delude yourself into thinking that it sprang forth fully formed from the head of Zeus or from the Virgin Mary for .NET. It’s as much an adaptation as VB.NET only a bolder one (note the break;s in switch statements).

    However, were we to hypothetically conceed that C# was the language native to the .NET concept what would that accomplish? What would it mean? That my equivalent code in VB.NET is somehow less potent because the CLR will not show it favoritism? What are you try to accomplish with these moot points?

  10. nullgod says:

    The arguments here seem to me to be an absolute wank. and are the same language with fractionally differing syntax. they are not as good for rapid dev as vb6 still is. I continue, as do many companies I work for, to use vb6.

    I count increase in productivity to be the key to any cost expenditure. There is no increase with .net and clr, indeed this is the negative as we search for ways to accomplish things that ms has decided we dont need to do.

    Except for the lack of a rad-ide-gui as good as vb6, python is offering us increases in productivity over any ‘basic’ language environment, and we get cross platform compatability as a bonus.

    I have made vb3-4-5-6 run as fast as well-coded c++ and have an iq nigh 200 – I am not a crack (well maybe a little) – just a very dissolusioned vb programmer.

    Neither of the .net languages are the perfect fit because ms has abandoned the true vb path and c# is just another java wannabe. perhaps if they were a little more imaginative and a little less copy cat.

  11. Anthony D. Green, MCP says:

    And they wonder why the VB community is so fragile, we’ve now been upgraded to the position where we can be assaulted from both C# on one side and VB6 on the other.

    Despite all the talk about how .NET breaks their minds and their codes I haven’t seen and comprehensive examples of this negative productivity.

    What is the -true vb path-? I don’t see too many apocalyptic changes to VB only that there is MORE of it in .NET. What is it that you are doing with VB6 that you can’t with VB7? Is it the default form instances? the array bounds? ByVal as default instead of ByRef? Can someone hand me some real deep answers?

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