There are a variety of different visual programming mediums available in the programming realm. Each of these languages has their own advantages and disadvantages. One of the most popular, long lasting, and easy to use visual programming method is visual basic. The history of visual basic stretches back decades, right to the very beginning of visual programming methods.  Visual basic has a convoluted origin story, that dates back to the early 80’s and BASIC. BASIC was a programming language that was used throughout the 80’s and had been developed by Microsoft. It was a somewhat cumbersome programming language to use in some ways, but its cheapness and adaptability helped push it and Microsoft to the top of the market.

Microsoft then became interested in a “form building” application that would create visual images. This was a daring idea at the time, as most computers of the time utilised crude ASCII based images that rarely, if ever, resembled anything. They approached a man named Alan Cooper, who had created a unique interface that seemed suited to Microsoft’s needs.

Cooper’s company, Tripod, developed an application called “Ruby” which did exactly what Microsoft wanted. However, it didn’t have a programming language. Microsoft simply paired it up with BASIC, adapting its programming to be compatible with the language, and created Visual Basic, debuting it at a trade show in Georgia in 1991.

Visual basic was an immediately popular language and helped fuel further success for Microsoft. One of the most interesting aspects of Ruby (and Visual Basic) was that it could load new link libraries which contained controls to create your visual forms. These controls could then be utilised in future programming projects. This interface, later to be called VBX, revolutionised the industry by creating a fully adaptable programming medium.

Future editions of Visual Basic followed a nearly yearly release schedule. Visual Basic 2.0 came out in 1992. Microsoft, never known for user friendly interfaces, actually streamlined the environment. IT became a lot easier to understand and use. They also tightened up its speed and added the idea of “core objects” which later evolved into “class modules.”

The history of visual basic continued with the 1993 release of version 3.0. This was the first version to include standard and professional versions. It also included the earliest edition of the Microsoft Jet Database Engine. It could read and write in Jet, making it essential for later Jet based applications.

When Visual Basic 4.0 came out in 1995, it was hailed as the best version of Visual Basic yet released. Programmers could now create 32-bit and 16-bit programs, as well as write in non-GUI classes. The control system was updated from VBX to OLE, which evolved into ActiveX.

Visual Basic 5.0, released in 1997, was the first Visual Basic to offer programming only in 32-bit. This upset some fans of the older, 16-bit programming style. However, it also offered custom controls and the ability to create executable programs, that could then be sold and distributed between friends and family.

The release of 6.0 in 1998 was the peak of Visual Basic’s success. It let users create web based programs, and featured streamlined coding methods that made it even easier to use. Mainstream support for the programming language ended in 2005, although updated editions have been periodically released for Microsoft’s own use.

In 2002 Microsoft controversially released Visual Basic.NET, a complete rewrite of the language which many developers wasn’t Visual Basic at all.  Microsoft concentrated its efforts on c sharp to combat the growing threat of Java.  Despite Microsoft’s neglect, Visual Basic is still a thriving environment built on its loyal support.   Once declared dead, Visual Basic is still here and still here in force.

For more information on using Visual Basic and how to program with the language, click here to learn Visual Basic in a series of tutorials

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