C# is Microsoft’s premier language for. NET development. It leverages time-tested features with cutting-edge innovations and provides a highly usable, efficient way to write programs for the modern enterprise computing environment. It is, by any measure, one of the most important languages of the twenty-first century.
The purpose of this chapter is to place C# into its historical context, including the forces that drove its creation, its design philosophy, and how it was influenced by other computer languages. This chapter also explains how C# relates to the. NET Framework. As you will see, C# and the. NET Framework work together to create a highly refined programming environment.
C#’s Family Tree
Computer languages do not exist in a void. Rather, they relate to one another, with each new language influenced in one form or another by the ones that came before. In a process akin to cross-pollination, features from one language are adapted by another, a new innovation is integrated into an existing context, or an older construct is removed. In this way, languages evolve and the art of programming advances. C# is no exception.
C# inherits a rich programming legacy. It is directly descended from two of the world’s most successful computer languages: C and C++. It is closely related to another: Java. Understanding the nature of these relationships is crucial to understanding C#. Thus, we begin our examination of C# by placing it in the historical context of these three languages.
C: The Beginning of the Modern Age of Programming
The creation of C marks the beginning of the modern age of programming. C was invented by Dennis Ritchie in the 1970s on a DEC PDP-11 that used the UNIX operating system. While some earlier languages, most notably Pascal, had achieved significant success, it was C that established the paradigm that still charts the course of programming today. C grew out of the structured programming revolution
of the 1960s. Prior to structured programming, large programs were difficult to write because the program logic tended to degenerate into what is known as “spaghetti code,” a tangled mass of jumps, calls, and returns that is difficult to follow. Structured languages addressed this problem by adding well-defined control statements, subroutines with local variables, and other improvements. Through the use of structured techniques programs became better organized, more reliable, and easier to manage.
Although there were other structured languages at the time, C was the first to successfully combine power, elegance, and expressiveness. Its terse, yet easy-to-use syntax coupled with its philosophy that the programmer (not the language) was in charge quickly won many converts. It can be a bit hard to understand from today’s perspective, but C was a breath of fresh air that programmers had long awaited. As a result, C became the most widely used structured programming language of the 1980s.
However, even the venerable C language had its limits. One of the most troublesome was its inability to handle large programs. The C language hits a barrier once a project reaches a certain size, and after that point, C programs are difficult to understand and maintain. Precisely where this limit is reached depends upon the program, the programmer, and the tools at hand, but there is always a threshold beyond which a C program becomes unmanageable.
The Creation of OOP and C++
By the late 1970s, the size of many projects was near or at the limits of what structured programming methodologies and the C language could handle.