VB6: David Platt’s Inside Pitch


David Platt has been writing the back page Don’t Get Me Started column at MSDN Magazine for going on five years now. The author of “Why Software Sucks” pulls few punches, and has shown a willingness to kick a hornets nest from time to time.

So when Platt wrote a column titled “The Silent Majority: Why Visual Basic 6 Still Thrives,” back in June 2012, I should not have been surprised. That article produced a flood of responses from developers arguing both the merits and flaws of Microsoft’s legacy VB6 programming language. I should have been even less surprise when, exactly two years later, Platt penned a second column exploring the enduring appeal of VB.

VB6 and the Art of the Knuckleball” ponders the question of how a modest programming language like Visual Basic can endure for so long, and enjoy such ardent support among its supporters. I caught up with Platt and asked him about the column, and some of the response he’s seen from it.

You wrote about VB6 a couple years back. What motivated you to return to the topic?

Not only did that 2012 column got more comments than anything else I’ve ever written, by a factor of ten, but the comments kept coming and coming, even a year and a half after publication. I’m greedy enough to do anything for that many page views. And certainly the opportunity to once again set VB adherents and detractors at each other’s throats works well with my back page columnist mission of pouring oil on troubled fires.

You’ve seen a lot of user comment and feedback. What’s most surprised you about the user feedback?

It’s not just the passionate response from those who love VB; I expected that. I’m floored by the rage of those who hate it. Not just, “I don’t want to use it,” or even “It encourages bad patterns, so I won’t let it into my shop,” but “VB is evil and should be wiped from the face of the earth.” Do these guys really have nothing better to do than lambaste someone else’s choice of development tools?

Why do you think it is that Visual Basic produces such passionate response among developers?

Those who love VB6 clearly fear it being taken away. There’s less of it every year, and the new world of mobile devices generally doesn’t allow VB6. But the bus drivers do not want to become fighter pilots. They are happy being bus drivers. They wouldn’t mind a shiny new bus, with air conditioning and GPS. And they’d especially like it if someone would open up roads for their busses onto new devices.

For the detractors, there is probably a certain amount of an adolescent’s sneering at their younger selves, as my 14-year-old daughter winces when I show her baby pictures. They enjoy wallowing in H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone somewhere is happy. Or perhaps they fear that management is going to take away their fighter planes and make them drive busses instead.

Do you really think Tim Wakefield could survive a nuclear war?

With his knuckleball, maybe.


Comments (5)

  1. Hugo Lalumiere says:

    "For the detractors, there is probably a certain amount of an adolescent’s sneering at their younger selves, as my 14-year-old daughter winces when I show her baby pictures. They enjoy wallowing in H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone somewhere is happy. Or perhaps they fear that management is going to take away their fighter planes and make them drive busses instead."

    This is the most insulting thing I have ever read from David Platt. None of us fear seeing other people happy, that is just childish. If said bus drivers are so happy, why do they even care about the new bus? Clearly they don't want the new bus they want the old bus. They don't ever want the old bus to ever change. Let's say tomorrow Microsoft invented a brand new filesystem that isn't compatible with their old bus, they would keep doing the same thing they have been doing for the last 20 years, absolutely nothing. They would just keep whining and crying about how Microsoft abandoned VB6 when they switched to the new filesystem.

    I wouldn't give a college freshman a C for this opiniated garbage journalism.

  2. Aaron says:

    Hugo, if you think that's insulting, you should hear some of the vitriol spewed forth by the other commenters who lament the use of VB6.  Relax, it's not worth debating.

  3. Sten2005 says:

    It looks like “VB6 and the Art of the Knuckleball” is gaining comments even faster than the earlier VB6 article.

    " I’m floored by the rage of those who hate it. Not just, “I don’t want to use it,” or even “It encourages bad patterns, so I won’t let it into my shop,” but “VB is evil and should be wiped from the face of the earth.” Do these guys really have nothing better to do than lambaste someone else’s choice of development tools?"

    The 'religious' fervor of those who don't use use the VB6 programming language is always amusing. You can understand why those who have their employment or business dependent on VB6 should take the trouble to post, you can understand why those who choose to use VB6 would post. But what goes through the heads of those who (often repeatedly and at length) post about a language they don't actually use ?

    Keep on pouring oil on troubled fires !

  4. VB6er says:

    Microsoft still haven't replied to the open letter calling for the Visual Basic 6 programming language to be updated or open sourced.

        http://www.i-programmer.info/…/7454-microsoft-refuses-to-open-source-vb6.html

    The Vb6 community is waiting for an answer.

  5. With the 25th anniversary of Visual Basic, wouldn’t it be a great idea to open source the VB6 programming language ?

    The demand for VB6 is still there. Microsoft have agreed to continue supporting VB6.
    Microsoft say “Windows is committed to compatibility. The Windows compatibility team has been looking at user telemetry and reacting to feedback from Windows Insiders to ensure that existing apps work well with Windows 10. Windows 10 is designed to run Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 software programs. And yes, everyone’s favorite VB6 Runtime will continue to work, too.”

    Microsoft support VB6 on Windows 7, 8 and 10 for the lifetime of the operating system (so until at least 2025 for Windows 10).

    The support statement is here: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/ms788708.aspx

    Yet Microsoft continue to refuse to either update or open source VB6.