I'd been in the hardware trade press for 10 years when my boss assigned me to cover a Microsoft product rollout in Atlanta. Call it a simple twist of fate. It was 1991. Of course I'd heard of Bill Gates, but he was in the software business, and of just about no interest to us.
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If he'd been doing assembler, of course, that would have been of a whole lot of interest, but he was doing Basic, which "real men" didn't do, back in those hardware circles. But the company was on the rise, and the boss sent me. The product rolling out, in fact, was Visual Basic, which has just lately turned 15.
There was tension in the air at the launch as we waited for the keynote speaker. Then, Bill Gates came out and just about everybody stood up and cheered clamorously. In those days hardware trade journalists didn't applaud (politely or otherwise) at the end of an industry executive's speech, much less stand up when they just appeared on stage. So I covered the story of the birth of Visual Basic, and had one eye on the rapt audience as I did so.
Later on I caught on to the fact that Bill Gates had become the richest man in the world and people were fascinated by that mere fact. Of course, there was real excitement about Visual Basic and Microsoft because the software was enabling for people who grew up during the batch processing era, when gatekeepers in smocks stood between you and the problem you wanted to crunch on.
The news that Gates is about to retire, to give away money to good causes and to gradually remove the heavy yoke of incredibly unbelievable wealth, has given pause to some of us. Gates was championed by many, and criticized by many too. My long-time colleague, Rich Seeley, of SearchWebServices.com, drolly summed it: "This may be like when Ali left boxing; software may never be as fun without Gates to kick around."
From a VB perspective, you knew Gates had a lot of things on his plate -- but you knew as well that Visual Basic was close to his heart. If he is not in on the software reviews, will VB get its due?
My bet is that Visual Basic -- now, of course, Visual Basic.NET -- will continue to gain attention from the Microsoft technical leaders. It lost too much of its "RADness," when it became enterprise-enabled as the company hurtled to .NET. The efforts within the company today to bring dynamic languages to bear on .NET are interesting, but eventually the company will see that its VB.NET efforts can include the best of its skunkwork efforts to make simplified software tools. Ray Ozzie, who will take over much of Gates' technical role in months to come, has a pedigree in decentralized IT and RAD, and he will see the light. You heard it here.
On another note: With this issue of This Week at SearchVB.com, I take leave of the role of Site Editor. Brian Eastwood, with whom you have become familiar, takes over that spot, as I focus solely on editing TheServerSide.NET, our TechTarget Network sister site, which is dedicated to design and .NET architecture issues, with a focus on C#.
You will continue to see my byline on SearchVB.com, I trust, whenever I write a story that Brian thinks may interest you, and I will continue to be glad to hear from you. Working closely with Brian, correspondent Ed Tittel, correspondent (and site founder) Brent Sheets, columnist Mike Gunderloy and a whole lot of other people at SearchVB.com has been a great experience. Coming to know the passion and enthusiasm of the Visual Basic community has been the best part. I trust you will continue to stand up for your favorite software!