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In this article, I will examine common motivations for creating a new computer language, and speculate on which might have led to C#. Next I will introduce C# with regard to its similarities to Java. Then I will discuss a couple of high-level, fundamental differences in scope between Java and C#. I close the article by evaluating the wisdom (or lack thereof) in developing large applications in multiple languages, a key strategy for .Net and C#.
Currently, C# and .Net are available only as a C# language specification (not yet in final form), a "pre-beta SDK Technology Preview" for Windows 2000, and a quickly growing corpus of articles on MSDN. This article is based on those resources and some of my own speculation.
Read the whole series, "C#: A Language Alternative or Just J--?":
Imagine you're creating a new computer language, and you want to solve some of the traditional problems for C and C++ programmers: memory leaks, difficulty writing multithreaded applications, static linking, illegal pointer references, overly complex multiple-inheritance rules, and so on. To flatten the learning curve, you design the language to look a great deal like C and C++. Then you add garbage collection, integrated thread interlocking, and dynamic linking, you throw out pointers, you allow only single inheritance but introduce the concept of an interface, and so on. Five years ago, Sun Microsystems introduced Java technology, which did those things and was platform-neutral, to boot.
In June 2000, Microsoft preannounced C#, which was designed expressly for its nascent .Net application development framework. In addition to C#, the immensely talented Hejlsberg created the revolutionary languages Turbo Pascal and Delphi while at Borland, but also the counterrevolutionary Visual J++ while at Microsoft. C# and Java address many of the same problems with C and C++. In fact, C# looks so much like Java that you could very easily confuse them.
So why create C# at all? Is C# a "Java wannabe?" Since Microsoft obviously needs to deal with the Visual J++ developers it has left stranded, is C# just "Visual J--"; that is, Java with some new features and without the Sun logo, trademark, and narrow-eyed lawyers? Or is C# a technology that gives Windows developers the functionality of Java, could possibly compete directly with Java, and is useful in its own right?