· How long have you been using VB?
I’m one of the extremely lucky developers who did beta work for Microsoft on Project Thunder – Visual Basic 1.0. While attending a symposium in Chicago, Tom Button (from Microsoft at the time) and I were talking about what, if any, future Microsoft Professional BASIC would have. He told me that its future is going to be truly amazing, both for Microsoft and for the BASIC computer language. He also mentioned that he’d be passing out forms to anyone in attendance who would be interested in being a part of that future. I received the form to beta-test VB 1.0 that day, and mailed it as quickly as possible the next day.
· What industry do you work in?
I’ve been a private software developer since 1980. In 2005, my son Robert and I joined forces and formed Eagle Secure Solutions, LLC – Robert had just finished a B.S. in Business Administration and a MCSE course from New Horizons. I’m the official software developer for Eagle Secure Solutions.
· How big is your development team?
This is definitely a no brainer! To state the answer in one sentence, “The software development team currently consists of me, myself and I.”
· What kind of apps do you most commonly build?
Most of the applications I develop are for business. They are mostly SQL Server data-centric applications to improve the business’ daily work.
· What’s the most interesting app you’ve ever built?
About ten years ago, I was working on a very big project for a large insurance company which shall remain unnamed. I was developing a new 1-800 insurance claim reporting system for them. Others told them the task would be an impossible venture, so I knew I had to try to prove them wrong. This insurance company stipulated that the application must be written using Microsoft Visual Basic, and the data should be stored in Access databases. To begin with, I spent two weeks with my insurance employees’ team, in a large, out-of-the-way meeting room, constructing data structures for over a dozen databases. (Even all of the database names and locations were kept in a database so the team could move, delete or add other databases that were needed.) Next, I created a software engine that would write a script of questions for the operator answering the call, no matter which state the call came from, or which type of insurance claim it was for. With the name of the state and the type of claim, this engine would return all of the necessary questions for that particular state and type of claim to the core application. To further speed the claim process, there were two databases that contained basic information about the claimant. After the engine completed forming the questions and the operator entered their name and where they lived or worked, another part of the app would fill in any answers it could from the databases containing the general info. An example of this data would be home address, telephone number and family data. (Plus much, much more!) And, to make it even faster, I embedded my own logic section in the application so the employees creating the baseline questions (in 1 of the 20 databases) could write their own If..Then logic. As an example, they could stipulate that if the caller from Nevada answered ‘No’ to a certain question, the application should jump ahead, sometimes a screen or two, to go to the next pertinent question. I am still very proud of this application, and, I understand the whole 1-800 system was used for about 5 years before they out-sourced this area. What had taken them hours to do before, could now be completed in 5 to 10 minutes. And, I learned a lot of minor insurance ‘stuff’ such as: all insurance claims filed in the state of Georgia had to be printed on Peach colored paper. Wow, I could’ve never guessed!!
· Please tell us about an app that you’re working on at the moment.
I’m currently working on a database application for a not-for-profit agency. I’m updating the older Access application to SQL Server and Visual Basic 2008. This application will also create quite a few reports for them, automatically. They’re some really great people to team up and work with. I love seeing their mouths drop open when they see the result of moving-on-up to the big league – to SQL Server.
· What other technologies do you most commonly use?
I also do Web sites, and whatever else the customer is willing to pay for. I try to keep up with other important technologies, such as : C#, AJAX, Silverlight, etc, etc. When I worked with the Microsoft Professional BASIC system, mostly all of the applications I wrote were hybrids – the core was in Basic, and, to speed areas where Basic was slow, I wrote functions in C, C++ and assembly. Around this time I had also beta-ed Microsoft Visual C, 1.0. But never fear, VBers, I’d never ‘fly out of the coop’.
· What are some of your favorite VB features?
Having started with Visual Basic 1.0, I’d have to say that everything that has been added since then is a favorite of mine. I’ve seen Visual Basic grow from a so-called ‘toy’ language (NOT), to an extremely powerful and elegant language.
· What do you like most about VB as a programming language?
It’s inclusion as a .NET language. I can remember looking at the Microsoft Foundation Class in C, and wishing with all my heart that VB had the same type of framework. Now we do! And, with this framework, the code we write is very similar to our C++ / C# colleagues, and the runtime speed is just as close. Other than that, what I like most about VB as a programming language can be answered with one word, “Everything!!!”
For other interviews in this series, please visit http://imavb.net.
Are you a VB, too? Submit your story here!