More keyword patents?

I am just not sure how to react to this! These changes could push more VB programmers to C#. But also, buried in this press release was a hint that Microsoft is going to actually try to patent these new keywords. Give me a freakin’ break!

With the upcoming release of beta 2 of Visual Studio 2005 and the .NET Framework 2.0, Microsoft is today announcing changes to the Visual Basic language that is part of Visual Studio. Continuing to focus on making Visual Basic the most productive language on the .NET platform, Microsoft is adding new keywords to the language.

The new “The” keyword assists programmers in identifying particular data objects or computing resources. This keyword will identify any default resources, such as printers, directories, or databases. This allows code constructs such as:

If The Database.IsDown OrElse The Database.IsTooSlow Then

    The Database.IsProbablyOracle

End If

“We think developers can definitely benefit from this. They won’t have to worry about locations of default resources,” according to Victor Silver, PR Manager for Visual Basic.

The new “A” keyword allows access to generics. Generics are a previously announced feature of .NET 2.0 that allow programmers to work without knowing anything about what they are working with.

VB Guru, Rockford Lhotka was hoping for additional keywords. When contacted for his comments on these changes, he said “I think they should have included “an” as well as “a”, because the current decision leads to “a awkward situation for some words”.

Past president of the highly influential Northern Colorado .NET SIG, Kathleen Dollard responded, “It’s a good first step, but I was really hoping they’d include adverbs”

Jeffrey Rochstar, author of several prominent books on .NET says, “I’m happy to see these additions for VB, but since they cut ‘that’ at the last minute, it seems that C# still has the advantage with ‘this’.”

These changes may be in response to pressure by the newly-formed Joint Organization of Keyword Enthusiasts. This group has been pushing for a full English sentence structure. There manifesto states that Visual Basic should be significantly more verbose. A spokesman said “Duh! Without periods, they still aren’t sentences,” and went on to say, “I think the backward compatibility problems presented by punctuation like semi-colons are solvable.”

According to Visual Basic Language Progression Manager, A.J. Thejays, the keywords are being added to the language to “enhance the ability of Visual Basic developers to create code in a more natural language. Adding “the” and “a” brings them closer to actual English sentences.” Thejays continues explaining that a great number of Visual Basic developers come, not from the Computer Science bacground, but with degrees in many Liberal Arts programs. “These are people who are used to communicating in proper English. We think that this be beneficial to the coding experience.”

Microsoft has not announced a timeframe for the new keywords, nor whether to the Visual Studio IDE will introduce a new color for the new class of keywords. Apparently, Microsoft has also applied for patents.

No one from Microsoft was available for additional comment because of Microsoft’s scheduled company-wide day of silence on April 1.

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