I cut my programming teeth, like most programmers my age, on a version of BASIC that came with my computer. In my case it was on an IBM PC my father bought for his accounting business back in 1982. There’s something immensely pleasurable about toying around with a small program and making the computer do what you want. Even if back then it wasn’t much more than playing little tunes on the internal speaker or creating a calculator, it was still a very empowering experience.
Flash forward to the present and it’s not easy to find that utter simplicity. The programming tools available to Windows administrators these days can be very complex, with learning curves that make it difficult to take up programming on the side as a way to automate your world. Batch files and Visual Basic Script tended to get a lot of use because they’re so simple, even if they seem like little more than “toys.” But they’re both getting old and somewhat obsolete, less useful than they used to be with all of the new advances in Windows and applications.
Enter Microsoft Small Basic, a programming environment intended to make programming fun again, like it was back in the days of green screens and 128K of memory and a big imagination. It’s based on .NET allowing it to interact with newer system APIs easily. While it’s not really meant for any particular kind of task, I can see it taking off in the administrator community as the heir apparent to VBS. It’s still not a fully released product, but you can download it in it’s current state to play with, it’s at version 0.8 and it’s free.
One nice thing about it is that it has a direct upgrade path to Visual Basic.NET, essentially meaning that it flattens out the leading edge of the VB.NET learning curve. Admins can start using it to automate tasks and then move up to full-blown VB.NET to get some serious work done. MSDN has a number of blog posts with a lot of good information. Go ahead and download it and give it a whirl, if for nothing else than simple fun!