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Visual Basic .NET 2010 Express - A "From the Ground Up" Tutorial

Part 1: Introducing this Tutorial

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Updated May 16, 2014

What's this course all about?

Microsoft has made it as easy as they can for you to learn .NET by giving away a really great Visual Studio based development system absolutely free: Visual Basic .NET 2010 Express Edition. Really. It's actually free. No strings!

VB.NET 2010 Express is really a free version of Visual Studio 2010, Microsoft's premier development environment. In this lesson, you learn what it is, how to get it, and how to get started by writing a program. No textbook is required. Later lessons feature downloadable example programs to help you learn. When you install VB.NET 2010 Express, the first screen you see will look like this:

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Because VB.NET Express is a version of Visual Studio, just about any book about Visual Studio will also apply to VB.NET Express to some degree, so use your Visual Studio books if you have them and if they apply to Visual Basic. All you have to do is download Visual Basic Express from Microsoft and start learning.

This course is also a living document. I plan to update it and extend it frequently to keep it current and add more content. If you have any suggestions about something that should be changed or added, let me know about it.

The current contents of the tutorial are as follows:

Part 1 - A "From the Ground Up" Tutorial - An introduction to the course.

Part 2 - Visual Basic Fundamentals - The basics of the VB Language and How To Find More Information.

Part 3 - About Programming - Software systems and the Systems Development Life Cycle.

Part 4 - What's New With Visual Basic .NET Express - Special emphasis on VB.NET 2010.

Part 5 - The .NET Framework and Objects - How the Framework and Objects fit into VB.NET.

Part 6 - Objects in Detail - More objects and version 1 of the Signature Block program.

Part 7 - Using Data and Serializing to Files - Intro to ADO.NET, and Using Serialization in Version 2 of the Signature Block program.

Part 8 - Using XML - Introduces the use of XML in VB.NET.

Part 9 - Programming Logic and System Architecture - Systems: From the CPU Chip to Networks.

Part 10 - Collections of Things - How to use Arrays, Collections, Stacks and Queues.

Part 11 - Errors: Preventing and Handling Them - Built-In Error Prevention and Structured Error Handling

We'll take it slow in this first lesson, but we will write a program - probably the most basic program that it's possible to write. Since we're just getting started, I don't want to leave anybody behind. In later lessons, the pace will pick up quite a bit.

The really good news is that Visual Basic .NET 2010 Express Edition is a great learning tool even if you buy Visual Studio eventually. It's based on exactly the same Framework 4 that the (much, much) more expensive versions are. (If you're into version numbering, this is version 10.0 of Visual Basic.)

I do a lot of development using VB Express and I can give you my personal assurance that it's a first class development system with most of the features of Visual Studio versions that Microsoft sells for thousands of US dollars. My advice: Take advantage of Microsoft and use VB.NET 2010 Express. Buy the more expensive Visual Studio 2010 version only when you absolutely have to.

(About Visual Basic is totally independent of Microsoft and as far as I'm concerned, Bill has enough money.)

As a beginners course in programming, the next lesson has a brief summary of the fundamentals. About Visual Basic features more advanced articles on the site but this course will make a special effort not to leave beginners and students behind.

Where did Visual Basic come from?

Visual Basic was invented by Microsoft, but it's based on an early language called BASIC invented by Dartmouth College professors John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz in 1964. Since C was invented almost ten years later, BASIC is one of the earliest computer languages. Every version of BASIC has been a revolutionary event in programming from the very beginning. In fact, the version of BASIC created by Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen in February 1975 has an excellent claim to being the very first personal computer language. The first version was written in the native machine language of a machine that many consider to be the very first PC, the MITS Altair 8800. Since the first PC version was written directly in machine language, nothing else came before it, not even an assembler language.

The first version of Visual Basic came out in May of 1991. It was revolutionary because everyone could create Windows programs easily and quickly for the first time. Before Visual Basic, Windows programs were usually written using the complicated syntax of C++ and the even more complicated requirements of Windows. It was a tricky job for even the most experienced programmers. But Visual Basic opened Windows programming for everyone. That made it a key part of the amazing early success of Windows. People who didn't live through this era often don't understand that IBM and OS/2 had nearly all the money, most of the customers, and they made the computers. They had it all! Microsoft was a tiny, insignificant upstart by comparison. The programming universe was literally turned upside down when Windows and Visual Basic became the most successful software system in the world up to that time.

I did live through it and as I write these words, it's even hard for me to believe just how amazing that time was.

But Microsoft has never been a company that let history happen to them. They have always made their own history. In February 2002, Microsoft made a 300 billion dollar bet on a totally new technology base for their entire company. They called it .NET. Bill Gates, who usually says what he means, called .NET a "bet the company" move. If .NET had flopped, it probably would have been all over for Microsoft.

On the next page, we zero in on .NET and VB.NET 2010!

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