Visual Basic is Microsoft's version of the BASIC programming language. Visual Basic is popular because unlike more traditional programming languages in which the programmer types out every aspect of the program, Visual Basic includes certain graphical user interface (GUI) components to streamline tedious aspects of coding. While you can use Visual Basic to quickly create Windows programs, you first need to undertake a few simple projects to learn the language.
There is an important first step to learning a language. Programmer superstition holds that this first step is necessary for success in learning the language: creating the "Hello, World!" program. For Visual Basic, this will involve the creation of a window in which you can display your text, creating a text box, setting the value of that text box to the character string "Hello, World!" and placing the text box within your window. You can also choose to place a button that causes the program to return to zero, or quit.
When you have the basic grasp of creating GUI components, and associating code with those components, a simple project you can undertake is to make a simple four-function calculator. Initially, you can create two text fields to hold the two numbers, a pull-down menu in between with one entry for each of the four basic functions, a final text field for the answer, and an "equals" button. Each text field sets the value of a variable, the function the user selects from the pull-down menu determines which "if" function the two variables are processed through, and the program populates the final text field with the correct answer.
One simple project that will let you learn about both random number generators and graphics programming is to create a program to simulate throwing two dice. Start off by randomizing two numbers between one and six. For each one, have a die face with the appropriate number of dots appear on either side of the program window. Create a "roll" button that will repeat the process each time it is clicked. Remember that using "6" as the range will actually produce a number between zero and five, so you need to increase the value of the randomized number by one for it to work properly.
Once you're comfortable with the basic functionality of Visual Basic, you can try to create a simple version of the game "Battleship." Use two two-dimensional arrays to represent the field of the human player and the computer respectively. Randomly generate the placement of the computer's pieces, and allow the user to place his. Then, have the two start taking turns at the game. You can either have the computer randomly guess (think two random numbers for x and y axis respectively) each turn or, if you want a more challenging twist, make the computer react intelligently to hitting one of the player's ships. Once you can create this simple program, you're ready to move on to more complex projects.
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