Rockford Lhotka

 Friday, March 11, 2005
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I was going to stay out of this, really I was. But it appears to be spinning out of control, with the press jumping in and spouting inaccurate conclusions left and right…

 

I am a Visual Basic MVP, and I do not favor the idea of merging the VB6 IDE into Visual Studio 2007 (or whatever comes after 2005). I’m afraid I see that as a ridiculous idea, for many of the reasons Paul Vick lists.

 

I’ve been in this industry for a reasonable amount of time – nearly 20 years. Heck, my first job on the VAX was porting code from the PDP-11 to the VAX. But there were still companies running that PDP-11 software ten years after the hardware was no longer manufactured.

 

The lesson? Companies run old, dead technology.

 

Why?

 

Because it works. Companies are nothing if not pragmatic. And that’s OK. But none of those companies expected DEC to support the long-dead PDP. They built their own support network through user groups and a sub-industry of recyclers who sold refurbished parts for years and years after nothing new was made.

 

VB6 today is the PDP-11 of 20 years ago. It is done, and support is ending. (though technically Microsoft has support options through 2008 I guess)

 

And you know what? Companies will continue to run VB6.

 

Why?

 

Because it works. Microsoft would prefer if you upgraded, but you don’t have to. And that’s OK. But like the people running the PDP-11’s, you can’t expect Microsoft to support a dead tool. Especially when they’ve provided a far superior alternative in the form of VB 2005.

 

If you want to keep running VB6 that’s cool. But like anyone using dead technology, you have to accept the costs of handling your own support. Of getting “refurbished” parts (in this case developers and components).

 

I’ll bet you that none of those old companies are still running a PDP-11 today. Why? Because eventually the cost of running a dead technology outweighs the cost of moving forward. The business eventually decides that moving forward is the cost effective answer and they do it.

 

This will be true for VB6 as well. It is simply a cost/benefit decision at a business level, nothing more. For some time to come, it will be cost-effective to maintain VB6 code, even though the technology is dead. Eventually – perhaps even 10 years later – the cost differential will tip and it will be more effective to move to a more modern and supported technology.

 

Other than a few odd ducks, I very much doubt that most developers would choose to continue to use VB6. Certainly they wouldn’t make that choice after using VB.NET or VB 2005 for a few days. I’ve seen countless people make the migration, and none of them are pining for the “good old days of VB6” after using VB.NET. Mostly because VB.NET is just so damn much fun!

 

And if you press the VB6-focused MVP’s, by and large you’ll find that they are staying in VB6 for business reasons, not technical ones. Their customer bases are pragmatic and conservative. Their customer bases are still at the point where the cost of running a dead technology is lower than switching to a modern technology. And that’s OK. That’s business.

 

What irritates me is when people let emotion into the discussion. This shouldn’t be a dogmatic discussion.

 

It is business, pure and simple! Deal with it.