Happy 15th Birthday to Visual Basic!

Wow, where does the time go? I can remember when VB was just this tall. Soon it’ll be driving!

Microsoft Announces Visual Basic at Windows World ’91 General-Purpose, High-Productivity Programming System for Microsoft Windows

ATLANTA — May 20, 1991 — Microsoft today announced MicrosoftR Visual BasicTM programming system at the Windows World ’91 industry trade show.  Visual Basic is a graphical application development system for Microsoft WindowsTM graphical environment version 3.0 that combines visual design tools with a powerful, general-purpose programming language and Windows .EXE compiler.  It provides a simple solution to the complex task of creating real Windows-based software applications.

“We set out to create the fastest, easiest way to program for the Windows environment,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and CEO.  “My goal from the start was to make developing Windows applications as easy and natural as possible.  We also wanted this tool to appeal to a broad spectrum of people interested in programming for Windows — from professional corporate programmers and consultants solving business problems to independent software vendors and casual programmers.”

Visual Basic programming system combines a rich, event-driven programming model with the world’s most widely used programming language in a tightly integrated package.  General development for the Windows environment is faster than ever.  The Visual Basic programming system provides visual user-interface design capabilities with powerful general-purpose programming tools, making it easy for any programmer to create compiled Windows .EXE files that can be freely distributed without run-time fees or royalties of any kind.

“This is the most important software product of the year, if not the decade,” said Steve Gibson, president of Gibson Research Inc.  “It’s the ultimate intellectual tool. Thanks to Visual Basic, both casual and professional programmers can produce compelling and beautiful results. Now it’s easy to put together real Windows version 3.0 applications.”

“We needed to create an application that incorporated Microsoft Word for Windows and Microsoft Excel,” said Craig Ellis, senior programmer analyst, Reuters Information Systems.  “Visual Basic was the tool to do this.  It filled our needs, allowed us to develop a fast and effective application and cut our development time by more than half.  It’s a fantastic product that allowed us to incorporate a family of Microsoft products into one application.”

The Visual Basic programming system can be used to develop any Windows-based application, including corporate business systems, tools and utilities, front ends to data (mainframe, server and local) or commercial Windows software products.  It is also useful for integrating multiple Windows-based applications and for automating software testing through dynamic data exchange (DDE).

Visual Basic programming system provides visual design tools for creating the user interface components — windows and dialogs — of an application.  A full set of Windows interface components (including command buttons, text fields, list boxes, pictures, drop-down menus and file system controls) are created visually, without writing any code.  The forms engine for building the interface incorporates technology acquired from Cooper Software.  A powerful, structured programming language is then used to add functionality to these interface components, responding to events that are automatically trapped by the system.

The Visual Basic language is a derivative of the Microsoft QuickBasicTM modern programming system, modified for the graphical environment and the event-driven programming language.  It uses a threaded p-code incremental compiler and source-level debugging tools, including an interactive immediate window, in a tightly integrated system.


Support is provided for DDE, the mechanism for exchanging data with other Windows-based applications.  The Visual Basic system also supports dynamic link libraries (DLLs), which allow the user to establish links with other Windows systems facilities and call the Windows API or routines written in other languages and compiled into DLLs.  The control set itself can be extended by developers using C and the Windows SDK and the Microsoft Visual Basic Control Development Kit, available separately.  This extensibility will provide the ability to fully integrate new user interface components into the graphical design and code development environment.  Examples could include multimedia, pen controls and data access.

Printed documentation and online Help provide step-by-step instructions for writing programs.  The online Help system provides context-sensitive reference information and sample code that can be copied and pasted into a Visual Basic program.  An icon library of approximately 400 designs and an icon editor written in Visual Basic language are also included.  “The built-in help is excellent,” said Lee Perryman, deputy director of Associated Press Broadcast Services in Washington, D.C.  “The debugging features are superb, and the controls are rich and feature-packed.  Because there is almost no learning curve for users familiar with the Basic language, Visual Basic makes Windows programming a snap.”

Visual Basic programming system for Windows will be available in June 1991 for a suggested retail price* of $199.  German and French versions are expected to ship in August, with other foreign language versions to follow.

The Visual Basic programming system runs in either the standard or enhanced mode of Microsoft Windows graphical environment version 3.0 or higher.  The system requirements include a personal computer using 80286 processor or higher; hard disk; mouse; CGA, EGA, VGA, 8514, HerculesR or compatible display; MS-DOSR operating system version 3.1 or later and one or more megabyte of memory.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ “MSFT”) develops, markets and supports a wide range of software for business and professional use, including operating systems, network products, languages and applications as well as books, CD-ROM products and hardware for the microcomputer marketplace.


Microsoft, the Microsoft logo and MS-DOS are registered trademarks and Microsoft QuickBasic, Visual Basic and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.
Hercules is a registered trademark of Hercules Computer Technology.

*Prices listed are U.S. suggested retail prices.

And many happy returns…

33 thoughts on “Happy 15th Birthday to Visual Basic!

  1. Tom Bowen

    I still have my original VB 1.0 manuals and 720K 3.5" installation disks. (Both of them!) Also have the VB 1.0 for DOS manuals and disks. Definitely a watershed moment for me.

  2. Mike Galos

    Wow. Exactly 15 years ago I was demonstrating Visual Basic 1.0 on the floor of Windows World.

    The team opened up a second demonstration station due to the huge interest but almost everybody had gone home to Redmond that morning and since I’d developed the Microsoft University course on Visual Basic and was already at the show, I was drafted by the Product Manager as the emergency demo person.

    (I still have my VB team t-shirt and my "Thunder – The Storm is About to Break" desk clock)

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  5. Mike Andrews

    I’ve been a long time VB programmer. I have all versions of VB from 1.0 to 6.0. I’m still a big proponent of VB over C#. I think the C# compiler and IDE guys could learn a thing or two about making development easier.

  6. Tom van der Vlugt

    I’ve been using VB since July 1993 and I like the language very much! My first experience with computing is Basic on the Commodore 64 and you guess it or not: C64’s Basic IS MicrosoftBasic, yes a predecessor of VB!

  7. Obituaries India

    I remember this a lot, because I can’t the forget the announcements of BASIC and QuickBasic, and then wow I saw VB. Now its just that .NET is added :-)) Live long for another 15 years….

  8. Raj Chaudhuri

    I was there at the 10-year celebrations in India. I showed off an app called Donkey.NET, which was deribed from a program that Bill Gates wrote for IBM Advanced BASIC. Will there be a 15-year party, as well?

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  11. Hercules

    I hate vb πŸ˜‰ took me too much time with her.

    I love vb so much and saw in my eyes of her death from a virus named .net.

    Could you please let old vb5 open source?

  12. sivakumar

    hi all

    i am a mechanical engineering background undertaking a software profession. i need visual basic materials. i want some basic materials of visual basic. basically it is my own interest. without knowing a bit of visual basic i created the hello world application. what i meant to say is such easy it is. i am also join with u all to celebrate this. please send any materials to my email id.

    note:Tom please send to me the manuals

  13. fiona

    i have my application in vb /sql server 2000 in india that i want to run on my pc in canada ,even after transfering the code ,database on canada pc

    i am getting some run time errors ,some automation errorr,dll files mising which r actually present in the system can u tell me a solution to this plz.i m using vb6.0 and sql server developers edition.

  14. Shafiuddin .A. Kazi

    Happy Birthday to the Visual Basic team, I have been using Visual Basic since 2002 and its been a very experience working with it. The latest Visual Basic 2005 Express edition what I have is absolutely fantastic. cheers to u all.

  15. Saurabh

    15 years ago i was in 2nd grade…i dont know much abt it… btw who was the first engineer to answer the first vb technical support call….


  16. Anthony D. Green, MCTS

    Whoa, Mr. Kazi that’s kinda wierd. You’ve been using VB since VB7? A representative of a whole new generation of VB!

    And here I thought that all VB devs were people had for whatever reasons started playing with some BASIC Dialect when they were 12 (QuickBasic for me πŸ™‚ and been emotionally involved ever since.

    Good to know VB’s getting new members and not just inheriting them.

  17. George Wenger

    …Considering that VB died in 2001 when B# (an entirely new language which did not respect the work we did in all previous versions) was introduced to replace it, this topic is entirely unfortunate!

  18. Anthony D. Green, MCTS

    Mr. Wenger,

    Fine I’ll conceed, VB.NET is an entirely new language. Has that anything at all to do with anything? not really. QuickBasic died too, and don’t pretend that every version of Basic has supported every version of BASIC up until 2001.

    Doesn’t make it B#. It’s just -Visual(Basic .NET) in the same sense that it’s Visual(C# .NET).

    I seem to remember having to write software in QuickBasic for many years because VB didn’t respect the work I did in DOS.

    VB.NET isn’t a replacement per se, you just wanted a replacement/upgrade and didn’t get one. By your own admission Basic .NET is an entirely new language and as such is under no obligation to respect anything from some other moderately related language. You don’t hear the GW-BASIC and Basica programmers complaining do you?

  19. George Wenger

    Mr Green:

    I’ll have to turn your own question back on you: Has your post anything at all to do with anything?

    The original topic of this post was to say Happy Birthday to VB as though the product introduced in 1991 was still in existence. It is not; the thing called "VB" now is an entirely different language (as we both agree).

    And although your point is that QuickBASIC <> VB is valid, B# *is* the first version where upgrading is not only "not easy", it is pretty much impossible due to the change to full OO structure (which was never required in any previous version). I’m sure we do not need to discuss the amazing shortcomings of the .NOT "Upgrade Wizard" to come to agreement that Microsoft had no real interest in migrating existing VB work. I *DO* note that C++ programmers had no such issue…

    A related point is your statement that I don’t hear GW-BASIC programmers complaining. True. I don’t hear that anyone programs in DOS anymore. VB provided a genuine *benefit* to encourage DOS programmers to move ahead to the better operating environment of Windows. No argument on that.

    But *where* is the corresponding benefit in .NET???? In the world of "carrot and stick", .NET provides ONLY a stick ("change or die").

    Instead, MS simply offloaded the cost of upgrading all existing code inventories (as well as the cost of QA, etc) back down onto the shoulders of individual programmers like you and me.

    As Joel Spolsky said so well: Investing in .NET is spending a lot of money to stand still. .NET provides no functionality that Win32API does not already offer; in fact .NET can be viewed as nothing more than a series of wrappers around Win32API core functionality.

    And I think it telling that MS own website at one point referenced something like 6.5 million licensed copies of VS6 in the world, compared with less than 3 million licensed copies of the .NET product. I guess I’m not the only one who is choosing to "move on" – but not in the direction that MS would so clearly like!

    So, Happy Birthday to VB! I only wish it were still around…

  20. Mr HT Kho

    I’m 19years old. I Love Visual Basic!!!

    I learn VB since 14years old :))

    VB is My Lovely on Programming!!! πŸ™‚

  21. Anthony D. Green, MCTS

    You’re right. I’m not expressing myself clearly. My purpose is not really to minimize your story at all. What I really should say is:

    I know that many of my fellow VB developers and their clients, customers, and employers were hurt, put off, or otherwise offended by the discontinuation of unmanaged Visual Basic. I respect their grievances and cannot belittle the effort required to “migrate” millions of lines of enterprise scale and mission-critical solutions to an entirely different platform. While this group has cause to be angry I think they (and we all to an extent) were S.O.L from day 1. Between C# and Java things were changing. There was either going to be some sad pathetic death as the world moved to trendy, easy programming languages that utilized the all-mighty semicolon; or there was going to be some attempt to at least give the VB community a way to by into the future of windows.

    Continuing the development of unmanaged VB would not have really benefited anyone. It would have just been a place for older VB development to hide and avoid change. Based on what I’ve heard from the outraged legacy community I don’t think the transition would be much easier if 5 more versions of VB.COM were released. And by the time the community had stepped up to the challenge everyone would be using C# and VB would be worse off than J# is now. And if what you say is true, that there is no benefit in .NET, then there was nothing to add to VB6 anyway to enhance it. It’s all in the Win32 API and various COM libraries already. I don’t really see the room for growth.

    I know that some of the language changes were unnecessary functionally but there we a lot of things in VB.COM that pissed off a lot of people, in my case property declarations. So if the language devs saw an opportunity to clean up inconsistencies and clumsy syntax, legacy holdovers from 10 versions of BASIC ago – I’m glad they did. My only regret is that arrays are still declared by upper bound rather than capacity a monumental and unforgivable misjudgment.

    I think it’s important that the whole picture be examined. The fact is that the VB community is/was so large that you can’t really stereotype it (as much as everyone tries). It’s a language which had so much potential for use ranging from beginners to all-purpose advanced that it’s unfair to speak as though you are the sole voice of how VB devs feel.

    Some developers are concerned about past assets, some more focused on the ease of future development. Some programmers wish VB would move back closer to previous incarnations, some wish VB would move further away from them and move forward. During the .NET 2.0 beta 2 of the hottest topics in the feedback center were A. Edit & Continue in C# (A VB6 feature wanted by some) and NOT reintroducing default forms instances (A VB6 feature explicitly not wanted by some). Even within the C# community there are multiple perspectives, some C# devs want a with block, some want a My namespace, others don’t.

    So once again while it was not or at least should not have been my intent to disregard you or your concerns in my earlier comments I just wanted to express a perspective to the contrary, as VB is very much alive and well for me πŸ™‚

  22. George Wenger

    Mr. Green:

    Let me start by thanking you for your civility! So many of this type of posting degenerate into flame wars, unfortunately, as passions tend to run high on all sides of the issue!

    We appear to have more agreements than disagreements, on closer re-reading. While I agree that VB could not stand still and try to hide from change, I tend to see (possibly more so than you) a bigger difference between "change" and "progress".

    For Microsoft to have summarily discarded so much previous effort, it should have offered a large incentive to move to .NET. In my opinion, it did not: not only does .NET still not function all that well (and how long has MS been working on this?) but even if it did, all it currently offers is a subset of things I can already do right now using straight WIN32API programming (and no, I’m not going to try to defend WIN32API as some sort of "great framework" to use!).

    I guess it would be correct to say that I see .NET as not progress, but really just a marketing move on the part of MS to lock up Windows development and maximize their profits (not an unworthy goal for a "for-profit" company, but whether I or anyone else want to contribute a lot of my own money and time and effort for what I see as very little benefit is an open question).

    I think what happened here is MS locked onto a means of penetrating the Internet app programming market like Java (after Sun refused to "share") and then decided on a "one-size-fits-all" approach and mandated the huge .NET framework as being the ideal tool for all purposes – including desktop apps, for which something like .NET is, bluntly, humongous overkill.

    Darn shame. Progress always has a cost (I’ve been in this business for awhile) but I have my doubts as to whether .NET qualifies as progress as opposed to simple profit-churing…

  23. Michael Fleming

    I was using a small DOS compiler called Zbasic back when Visual Basic 1.0 came out.

    I worshiped Zbasic, it was blazingly fast, had a newsletter with breathtaking new applications every month.

    VB 1.0 was massively huge, but came with application libraries that slowly won me over. I read the documentation on every new release of VB like I would read a mystery novel.

    Happy Bday VB!

  24. John

    I also have my original Visual Basic for DOS 1.0 disks (was 12 when I got it) and my Visual Basic 2.0 & 3.0 disks for Windows. I have a lot of naustalgia for Visual Basic 3.0. Still have a floppy in my PC also, VB 3.0 runs well on XP though I have little use for it these days. The Access 1.0 databases it creates with it’s data controls can’t even be opened these days by Office 2007 (I actually tried the other day, was bored). πŸ˜›

    The Visual Basic language of today looks so much different with the .Net Framework behind it. It took me a while to buy into it from VB6… I was a huge VB6 fan. The Framework just had too much to offer that makes my life easier. πŸ˜›

    Anyway, I’m waiting for the 20 year birthday. πŸ™‚

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