C# 2005 for Dummies mostly hits the mark

By   |  April 28, 2006

C# 2005 for Dummies
Authors: Stephen Randy Davis and Chuck Sphar
Publisher: Wiley
Price: R164.76 (Kalahari.net)
Supplied by: www.intersoft.co.za
ISBN: 0764597043

You might be a bit surprised to see a book on a Microsoft programming language reviewed in Tectonic. C# (pronounced see-sharp) is the most common language used for Microsoft’s .Net application architecture, but since Microsoft released C# as an open standard, it is fast becoming a popular open source language too, particularly thanks to Mono.

The Mono application framework is an open source platform and by developers to compile and run C# applications under Linux, with exciting projects like the desktop search engine Beagle using this architecture.

It’s not surprising that C# 2005 for Dummies by Stephen Randy Davis and Chuck Sphar is a bit Microsoft .Net-biased, but it also briefly covers other C# frameworks, including Mono. And if you are looking for a starter’s guide to the language of C# rather than how to use Mono specifically, you should definitely give this reference a look. The price point is certainly attractive (R164.76 from Kalahari.net), compared to the usual bank-breaking cost of computer books.

I’ve often found that the “For Dummies” series, published by Wiley, misses the mark. They often either go too high — way above my head — and leave me feeling like a real dummy; or they target it too low, and you don’t learn much from the experience.

C# 2005 for Dummies manages to hit that happy medium through almost exactly half of the book. Parts one through three (Creating your first C# programs; Basic C# programming; and Object-based programming) really hit the mark.

With a little — or even no — development experience under your belt, you’ll get the basics under your belt very quickly, but at what I found to be a comfortable pace.

The plethora of examples and the occasional diversion from syntax to real programming issues — such as bubble sort algorithms and C# dos and don’ts — are what make the first half of the book a success. The introduction to object-oriented programming in the third section is excellent, with even a dummy like me coming out of the section with a much firmer understanding of the concepts than I’ve ever had previously.

This is interspersed with a great sprinkling of Texan humour than breaks both the monotony of code and demystifies the whole process too. “Some wags have pointed out that C-sharp and D-flat are the same note, but you should not refer to this new language and D-flat within earshot of Redmond, Washington,” write the authors.

On page 211, however, the book takes a sharp turn. Part four, object-oriented programming, is tough stuff, with a lot of new concepts that many a developer has struggled with coming in hard and fast. Part five, Beyond basic classes, gets really hard-core. Both I and my migraine gave up somewhere on chapter 14.

Here’s where I think they missed the mark. A “For Dummies” book that isn’t really for dummies could quite easily scare off us real dummies. If you do manage to fight your way through parts four and five, taking time to really understand each concept and absorb its meaning, you will be a master programmer at the end of it. (At least you’ll have the basic knowledge to be one — you’ll still need some experience and natural talent of course.)

I believe that C# 2005 for Dummies could have quite easily have lopped off those sections, or just covered the simplest concepts there and then included a few pages of examples. If you want to become a C# master, you’ll go and buy a more advanced book after you finish C# for Dummies.

Still, the book is a worthwhile starting point for any prospective C# programmers, although I encourage you to hit the brakes on page 210, gain some experience in what you’ve learned so far — which is really more than enough to write plenty of fun and useful programs — and then tackle the second half a few months down the line.

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