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Is it time to learn C#?

Microsoft announced C# as the 'replacement' for J++ in the next version of its Visual Studio Suite.

Is it time to learn C#?

For those of you not familiar with C#, Microsoft, in June, announced C# as the 'replacement' for J++ in the next version of its Visual Studio Suite, which will be released sometime in 2001.

Those of you who read my Careers tip last week in which I discussed Visual Basic and Java salaries may be wondering whether C# is a language that you should learn?

The answer is not a simple one, for a number of reasons.

First, C# has not officially been released yet, and won't be until the next version of Visual Studio is released sometime in 2001. You can download a beta version from the Microsoft Web Site if you wish

and there is some preliminary documentation available from Microsoft as well

Second, at this point, there aren't many jobs calling for knowledge of C#. I maintain a web page devoted to C# at

and if you check out some of the links that maintain job sections, you'll see that there are few jobs asking for a knowledge of C# (not surprising, since the product has not been released yet).

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the importance of the C# language in the grand scheme of things to me is cloudy at best. For instance, is C# a replacement for J++, a replacement for C++, or a possible competitor to Java?

If you read Microsoft's announcement concerning C#, Microsoft plainly states that their intention is to bring Rapid Application Development to the C++ programming community. In light of the advice I give to my students to learn Visual Basic (for its ease of use and marketability) and then, if possible, Java, for its hardware portability, C# just doesn't fit into that picture.

On the other hand, many analysts believe that Microsoft is positioning C# as a competitor to Java -- in which case the picture changes a bit. If C# somehow manages to cut into the Java market, then learning C# isn't a bad idea. And being the first person on the block to know a suddenly popular language is a great place to be.

However, I think it's way too early to make that investment of time and energy. Learning C# at this point will be difficult for most people. Your options to learn C# are pretty limited -- use the Microsoft documentation to learn the language, or purchase one of the few books on C# available on the market. If learning this way is not your cup of tea, you'll find other options are virtually non-existent. As best I can tell, there are no formal classes on C# being offered yet.

The bottom line is that you should wait and see what becomes of C# -- if it looks like a winner at this time next year, there will still be plenty of time to get up to speed and to enter the potentially lucrative C# programming pool.

Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.

John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.

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