I'm not a great one for heroes, but the few I do have includes Anders Hejlsberg. He's the architect of C#, a technology that I've used virtually every day in the past eleven years of my career as a professional software developer. It's the technology that's touched my life the most, enabling me to get a deep sense of personal satisfaction out of my job and career. I wouldn't be surprised if other software developers who work day-in-day out with C# feel the same fondness for it as I do for it.
C# and .NET were hugely important for Microsoft. Back in 2001, the developer story on Windows was an utter mess. An almost indescribable hodgepodge of messy hacks and broken approaches. C# and .NET created a staging post for those targeting the Microsoft stack to gather and regroup before heading off on a journey that on aggregate measures in millions of man-years across the community as a whole. Collectively, we gathered, we changed direction, and all set out together.
What you also get is IntelliSense. Having spent today working on a PhoneGap project with a basic text editor and no IntelliSense I'm reminded that building complex code without it is irritating at best, unproductive and costly at worst.
So back to Anders. Let's look at three of his home runs. Firstly Turbo Pascal, the one in which he takes Pascal and reinvents it to make it work really well and have developers fall in love with it. Then Delphi, the one in which he takes Visual Basic and reinvents it to make it work really well and have developers fall in love with it. Then C# … you get the idea.
TypeScript will live or die in the open source community. (This isn't 2002.) To that end, I reached out to Miguel de Icaza, an individual with open source chops like few others.
First thing he reflected on was that out-of-the-box what was released today works on OS X. (You can install it in Node.js using the Node Package Manager.) He also went on to talk about how it's open source (it uses the Apache License 2.0). Engagement is also good - the language specification (PDF) is online, and there are managed forums. The initiative is being done entirely in the community, for the community.
In our conversation Miguel told me that "the language architect needs to play an active role". This is one of the things I'm worried about with Anders - rightly or wrongly he's spent a lot of time doing deep thinking within an organisation that's mostly closed-source. (Incidentally Miguel was confident that a mindset adjustment to being more open wouldn't be a problem.) However, I'm going to need to see Anders come out on Twitter and really start communicating as well as all the Microsoft people who are on Twitter do.
I should say that Miguel was general positive about the project, he mentioned only one misstep which was that "the web developers of the world got half the benefits". And I think this is a pretty big misstep. If you're building web apps that run on anything other than Windows, you're likely using a Mac and most likely not using Visual Studio. You need the Visual Studio plug-in to get the IntelliSense. All you get without Visual Studio is the strong-typing. You don't get the productivity benefits you get from IntelliSense.
If it was anyone other than Anders Hejlsberg doing this, I wouldn't even have bothered to write this article. He gives it credibility. The basic open source execution steps are all there - license, source code, willingness to discuss, multiple platforms - tick, tick, tick, tick. The lack of IntelliSense on non-Microsoft tools is an error, and it would have been easy enough to add these to Eclipse and other IDEs.
What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.