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C# Strikes a Chord

C# Strikes a Chord

C# Strikes a Chord

by Jacques Surveyer

Jacques Surveyer is a web consultant; he chats computing at

When Microsoft recently announced its new programming language, C# (that's C-Sharp), industry watchers immediately started speculating about the pedigree of the proposed language. Was it the son of Java? Or a closer relation to its C++ cousin in Visual Studio? The official line from Microsoft is that C# is a C/C++ derivative. C# clearly borrows from Bjarne Stroustrup's C++, but it also draws much from James Gosling's Java. I have carefully read the three reference documents for the languages written by their creators — The C++ Programming Language: Special Edition by Bjarne Stroustrup; Java Reference by James Gosling and C# Reference, by Anders Hejlsberg. Using these sources I will compare the languages and attempt to uncover a family genealogy.

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Given the distinguished heritage, I really expected to find some interesting OO speculation and design criteria espoused by the three language designers. But to my surprise such comments were held to a minimum. Rather, like Sir Isaac Newton's quote cited in Java Reference, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants," all three designers give a flourishing nod to their predecessors (C in the case of C++, C++ in the case of Java, and C/C++ in the case of C#) and then are up and about explaining the details of their respective languages.

Nonetheless it is possible to get glimpses of what design criteria were used in each case. Bjarne Stroustrup describes C++ as " a general purpose programming language with a bias towards system programming that is a better C; supports data abstraction; supports object-oriented programming; supports generic programming." James Gosling is, like his language, a bit more terse: "Java is a general purpose, concurrent, class-based, object-oriented language." And Anders Hejlsberg declares "C# is a simple, modern, object oriented, and type-safe programming language derived from C and C++."

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