G'day -

I have a background in VB, but have recently been looking at Java. This has
led me to read about the concept of Open Source, copyleft et al. I hadn't
realised how much work had been done by some of these guys - it's quite incredible.
Unfortunately, it is being done by such a minority group. And a lot of these
people seem to have an unfortunate tendency to look down on certain groups.
For instance, in the otherwise enlightening "How To Become A Hacker" (http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html),
Eric S. Raymond has this to say:

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Are Visual Basic or Delphi good languages to start with?

No, because they're not portable. There are no open-source implementations
of these languages, so you'd be locked into only those platforms the vendor
chooses to support. Accepting that kind of monopoly situation is not the
hacker way.
Visual Basic is especially awful. The fact that it's a proprietary Microsoft
language is enough to disqualify it, and like other Basics it's a poorly-designed
language that will teach you bad programming habits.

One of those bad habits is becoming dependent on a single vendor's libraries,
widgets, and development tools. In general, any language that isn't supported
under at least three different vendors' operating systems is a poor one to
learn to hack in.
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Well, when I first read this, I thought "typical C headed bigot". I must
assume that as Mr. Raymond is some sort of leader in the "Open Source community"
that this must be a generally held view. A lot of the other in the document
made a lot of sense to me and I can see a lot of what Mr. Raymond describes,
such as freedom of ideas and helping your fellow hacker in what must be a
terrible place, the devx.vb hierarchy of newsgroups. It also occurs to me
that these people are never going to "win" unless they get the hearts and
minds of us who work with these "evil" languages. Think about the number
of VB programmers there must be! And then I got thinking about his statement:

"There are no open-source implementations of these languages, so you'd be
locked into only those platforms the vendor chooses to support."

And I thought, wouldn't it be cool if there <was> a kind of open source implementation
of VB - call it VeeBee Basic or something. That way, I and 000's of other
developers could write code that worked on any platform. It would also make
the moaning about the next version of VB redundant - we could add the new
features ourselves! It would be hard (you would have to write implementations
of Win32 and COM to be complete), but this undertaking IMHO would be far
more important than any other Open Source project. But I suspect the tragedy
would be that the thought of touching a "Microsoft Language" would be anathema
to too many "real" programmers.

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Mark Alexander Bertenshaw
Programmer/Analyst
Prime Response
Brentford
UK