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.NET 4.0 Generics Beginner's Guide

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It is my pleasure to write the foreword to a book which will introduce you to the world of generic programming with C# and other .NET languages. You will be able to learn a lot from this book, as it introduces you to the elegant power of generic programming in C#. Through it, you will become a better C# programmer, and a better programmer in all future languages you might choose to use.

It is now almost 10 years since .NET Generics was first described in publications from Microsoft Research, Cambridge, a project I was able to lead and contribute to, and six years since it was released in product form in C# 2.0. In this foreword, I would like to take a moment to review the importance of .NET Generics in the history of programming languages, and the way it continues to inspire a new generation of programmers.

When we began the design of C# and .NET Generics, generic programming was not new. However, it was considered to be outside the mainstream, and attempts to change that with C++ templates and proposals for Java Generics were proving highly problematic for practitioners. At Microsoft Research, we pride ourselves on solving problems at their core. The three defining core features of .NET Generics as we designed them were efficient generics over value types with code generation and sharing managed by the virtual machine, reified run-time types, and language neutrality.

These technical features are now widely acknowledged to represent the "right" fundamental design choices for programming language infrastructure. They are not easy to design or build, and they are not easy to deliver, and when Microsoft Research embarked on this project, we believe we put the .NET platform many years ahead of its rivals. The entire credit goes to Microsoft and people such as Bill Gates, Eric Rudder, and Anders Hejlsberg for taking the plunge to push this into our range of programming languages. However, without the prototyping, research, engineering, and incessant advocacy by Microsoft Research, C# and .NET Generics would never be in their current form.
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