Visual C# Team

Shon Katzenberger, Peter Hallam, Scott Wiltamuth, Anders Hejlsberg, Todd Proebsting, Peter Sollich, Erik Meijer

2007 Outstanding Technical Achievement
Thanks to the vision and hard work of the Visual C# team, this programming language has become one of the most popular and fastest-growing in the industry.

In January 1999, Anders Hejlsberg, Peter Goldie*, Peter Sollich, and Scott Wiltamuth were given carte blanche to design a new programming language that would fit on top of Microsoft's .NET framework. They are the collective recipients—along with Peter Hallam, Shon Katzenberger, Todd Proebsting, and Erik Meijer—of the inaugural Microsoft Technical Recognition Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement for their work on the Microsoft Visual C#® programming language, which was unveiled as part of the .NET initiative in 2000.

Controversy usually attends the introduction of a new programming language, and it was legitimate to question why a new language was deemed necessary when C, Visual Basic®, and Java were already firmly entrenched. According to principal designer and lead architect Anders Hejlsberg, speaking on behalf of the team, the need for Visual C# arose when it became clear that "we were not going to be able to build on top of the Java platform and add value for Microsoft Windows® customers."

Distinguished Engineer Patrick Dussud characterizes Visual C# as an elegant compromise combining the increasingly important security of a type-safe language with the flexibility of a type-unsafe language. "These guys said, ‘What if we create a language that borrows a lot from C, but is type-safe in general, and then we allow very special well-marked places to be type-unsafe for a short time?'" Dussud explains. "It's like a middle ground that's probably 90 percent type-safe and 10 percent type-unsafe."

After two Visual C# releases, and a third on its way, Hejlsberg and his team work fundamentally the same way today as when they began. In 1999 they quickly fell into a rhythm of two-hour design meetings three afternoons a week. "If you got a great idea," Hejlsberg says, "you could walk into a meeting with these people and have a deep conversation about it within a couple of minutes. The beauty of our continual process is we now have several people with the same value system and deep historical background."

The Visual C# team also enjoys an efficient division of labor. "My function on the team is benevolent dictator," says Hejlsberg, who also designs Visual C#'s supporting libraries and is known for his insistence on design simplicity and tastefulness. "I rarely exercise my power, though. It's really about ensuring consensus and making the call when necessary." Original project manager Scott Wiltamuth, currently product unit manager for Visual C#, is responsible for day-to-day management, Erik Meijer represents the SQL Server group, and representatives from the compiler group also participate.

Apart from Visual C#'s initial launch, Hejlsberg is particularly pleased with the Language Integrated Query (LINQ) project unveiled with Visual C# 3.0 in 2005. Meijer was instrumental to the LINQ project, which "aims to make query a first-class concept in a general-purpose programming language," Hejlsberg says. "It's our first step toward a more declarative style of programming, which is where the industry will go in the long term." LINQ will facilitate multicore processing and hardware architecture changes and enhance productivity.

"It's always nice to get awards," Hejlsberg says, "but when you receive an award from the people you respect the most, it's particularly wonderful and humbling." He underscores that collaboration comes first. "We've been fortunate enough to be singled out for this particular award, but so many other people worked on this as well. We have very strong developer and server-tool organizations, as well as a robust user community."

*Peter Goldie has since left Microsoft

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