Getting to know your Compiler
Copyright Dec 27, 2003
In the beginning
The history of Visual Basic starts back in the 1960's when Basic
(Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction) was developed and ran on
big main frame computers. Back in those days the languages were acient
and just being developed but, they were verry useful in their day. The
origional basic was created to teach people how to code with an easier
language before getting into more large scale languages such as cobol
and assembly. After a few years, Microsoft developed Dos (Disk
Operating System) for IBM's New Personal Computer. IBM released a
version of BASIC with PC-Dos called BASIC-A. As a result, for non IBM
computers, Microsoft released an identical version of MS-Dos called
GW-BASIC. Since GW-BASIC was only an interpreter, incapable of
compiling executable programs, Microsoft provided another product for
use in compiling BASIC programs, called QuickBasic. QuickBasic was a
revolutionary update to the language featuring true structured
programming with callable procedures instead of line numbers. The free
version of QuickBasic, released with later versions of MS-DOS, was
Alan Cooper is reguarded as the father of Visual
Basic because he developed the first working prototype of a
drag-and-drop programming environment with a toolbox of widgets
(controls). Cooper's width toolbox was the key to his recognition in
this respect. Cooper's program was called Tripod, and he had the
opportunity to show the program to Bill Gates (who, in case you only
recently landed on Earth, is the chairman of Microsoft) back in 1988.
Gates apparently loved the program and offered to buy it from Cooper.
The new Microsoft product was code-named Ruby, and the rest is history.
Oddly enough, Microsoft stripped the widget toolbox out of Ruby and
shelved Tripod. Only later did the development team ressurrect the
concept of plug-in widgets, per Gates' insistence. Had the team not
done this, Visual Basic would have likely failed as a development tool.
But since developers has an opportunity to add their own widgets to the
drag-and-drop toolbox, Visual Basic had an edge over other visual
History of Visual Basic
Each new version of visual basic has been significantly more
powerful than the last, and has been released to the greate fanfare and
acclaim. Later versions generated almost as much fervor as Microsoft's
Windows operating system and Office products. In the following, I have
included a short description of each version of visual basic.
Basic 1.0. - The first official version of visual basic (code-named
Thunder) debuted in 1991. It was acually a combination of QuickBAsic
and Ruby, ad could be used to create Windows programs with a simple
drag-and-drop interface and instant interpreted runtime. This was
Microsoft's first visual language, and its drag-and-drop control
toolbox and event-driven programming model allowed programmers to
create Windows 3.0 programs without using clumsy the Microsoft C
compiler that ran under MS-DOS.
Visual Basic 2.0. - This
version was released in 1992 and greately helped the language grow in
populatity. Visual Basic 2.0 featured ODBC ( Object Database
Connectivity - a database driven standard) support, MDI (
Multiple-Document Interface) forms, object variables, and a new
Visual Basic 3.0. - This version came
out in 1993 and had several new advancements, including integration of
the Access JET database engine, OLE ( Object Linking and embedding)
automation, and rudimentary reporting.
Visual Basic 4.0. -
This version, which debuted in 1995, added support for COM ( Componet
Object Model) components, including support for ActiveX DLL and OCX
files. Visual Basic 4.0 was a hybrid version, supporting both 16-bit
Windows 3.1 and 32-bit Windows 95. The most significant new feature of
visual basic 4.0 was the addition of classes, which gave visual basic
programmers a taste of the object-oriented programming world.
Basic 5.0. - This version was released in 1997 and added additional
support for COM with the ability to create Custom ActiveX controls (
where as visual basic 4.0 only allowed you to use them, not create
them). It was directly aligned with Microsoft's new focus on internet
development. Visual Basic 5.0 also included a native code compiler,
resulting in much faster programs, and added the WithEvents statement.
Basic 6.0. - This version came out in 1998 with great success and
achieved widespread acceptance, pushing visual basic to the top
position in development tool popularity. Visual Basic 6.0 offered some
spectacular new features ( particularly involving databases), including
the Data Enviroment for creating database connection classes,
WebClasses for Internet Development, windowless controls, and a
scaled-down version of Crystal Reports.
Visual Basic.Net. -
This version was released in 2002 and might be thought of as Visual
Basic 7.0. this version is a grand departure from previous versions of
visual basic and is comprised of more than just new features. Visual
Basic.Net revolutionizes the language and is a complete rewrite of the
compiler ( which is shared by other Visual Studio languages). In fact,
it might be argued that Visual Basic.Net is not even really Visual
Basic any more, and that Visual Basic 6.0 was the last true version.
Downloading the Latest Service Pack
It is an unfortunate fact that most software companies release
buggy programs. Despite the earnest effort of the most comprehensive
quality assurance ( QA) teams, bugs are inevitable. Given the real
complexity of the Visual Basic compiler and IDE ( Integrated
Development Enviroment), it is given that bugs will be fixed and
features added over time.
Microsoft's solution to bug fixes and
feature requests is to release periodic Service Packs. At the time of
this writing, the latest service pack of Visual Studio 6.0 is Service
Pack 5 (SP5).Since the download link for this pack may frequently
change, you can go to http://msdn.microsoft.com and perform a search for "visual basic service pack" to help you locate the latest version.
Getting Help Using Microsoft Developer Network
You can invoke MSDN by hitting F1 on your keyboard or, you can
start MSDN from the program menu. Once inside MSDN, if the result of
your initial help invocation does not return a helpful result, you can
click the index tab and type in a keyword, which usually works for
finding help on a topic. depending on the options you selected when you
installed MSDN, you might have access to all of the Windows API (
Windows Application Programming Interphase) from here. If you elected
to leave out most of the MSDN options, then you can simplily insert the
correct MSDN CD-ROM when you search for help on a topic that was not
installed but is listed in the index. The primary strenth of MSDN is
that it effectively replaces anentire library of Windows API ( Windows
Application Programming Interphase) reference book and includes
countless tutorials that are invaluable when researching a topic.