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An Introduction to .NET for Beginners

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Starting with a brief historical overview, Tim Patrick explains all about .NET, from the concept of objects to typical development processes.
This chapter is from the book

Welcome to .NET! I might as well have said, "Welcome to the Solar System," because like the solar system, .NET is huge. And it's complex. And it's filled with black holes and other things that don't always make sense. Yet it (.NET, not the universe) turns out to be a fantastic system in which to develop software applications.

The .NET Framework was not developed in a vacuum (unlike the universe); Microsoft designed it and its related development languages—especially C# and Visual Basic—to address various issues that plagued Windows software developers and users. To fully understand why .NET was necessary, we need to take a short trip down computer memory lane.

Before .NET

Practical general-purpose computers have been around since the mid-twentieth century. However, they were inaccessible to most people because (a) they cost millions of dollars, (b) they consumed gobs of electricity, (c) maintenance and programming could only be done by highly-trained specialists, and (d) they tended to clash with the living room furniture.

Fast forward about 30 years. IBM comes out with the "personal" computer. These "desktop" computers represented a great advance in technology, but only a minority of people ever used them. They continued to be expensive (thousands of dollars), and maintenance and programming still required significant investments in training. IBM PCs also looked hideous around the living room furniture.

Then came the Apple Macintosh. With its sleek design and its user-friendly functionality, it introduced the joy of computing to the masses. And while programming it was not always straightforward, it did give nice results. It's no wonder that Bill Gates decided to copy—oops, I mean improve upon—its functionality.

Microsoft Windows 1.0 brought a greater level of usability to the IBM/Intel computing platform. But it wasn't a free ride for programmers. MS-DOS development was hard enough without the addition of the "message pumps" and the hundreds of Application Programming Interface (API) calls needed by Windows programs. Visual Basic 1.0, introduced in 1991, greatly simplified the development process, but with the advent of 32-bit systems, ActiveX and COM components, and the Web, even VB programmers soon felt overwhelmed.

Throughout the 1990s, the situation only seemed to worsen. Microsoft saw increased competition in the form of the Java language and the Linux operating system. Hackers were exploiting buffer overruns and other security issues present in the Windows platform. Users experienced myriad computer problems stemming from conflicting standards, competing data integration technologies, registry bloat, and "DLL hell." In frustration, an Excel user's group set fire to the entire Microsoft campus in Redmond.

Well, it didn't get that bad. But Microsoft did see that it needed to address the overall software development and usability issues on its beloved Windows platform. Its solution came in the form of the .NET Framework.

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