15 Years!

It was exactly 15 years ago today that I had one of my career highlights.

Microsoft had announced Visual Basic at the Comdex Spring/Windows World conference in Atlanta on Tuesday and it was a runaway success. I was at the show gathering networking information from all the LAN vendors for inclusion into the Microsoft University course on Supporting Windows 3.1 and had just finished up Intermediate Programming in Microsoft Visual Basic which was the very first commercial course on VB.

On Tuesday, it was becoming painfully obvious that VB was not just a hit but a monster hit and the one demo station on the show floor was constantly surrounded. A second station was opened up but almost all of the VB team was flying home on either Thursday night or Friday morning so the travel time back to SeaTac wouldn’t kill their weekend. Nevet Basker, the Product Manager for VB, grabbed me on the show floor and asked if I’d be willing to fill in on the second demo station since I knew VB and was there. So, fifteen years ago today, I was demonstrating Visual Basic at Comdex.

In honor of that, here’s the original press release from the launch that week:

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.


One Response to “15 Years!”

  1. Ahken Says:

    Wow. Hard to believe that VB has been around for that many years.


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