C# is a general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language encompassing strong typing, lexically scoped, imperative, declarative, functional, generic, object-oriented (class-based), and component-oriented programming disciplines. It was developed around 2000 by Microsoft within its .NET initiative and later approved as a standard by Ecma (ECMA-334) and ISO (ISO/IEC 23270:2018). C# is one of the programming languages designed for the Common Language Infrastructure.
C# was designed by Anders Hejlsberg, and its development team is currently led by Mads Torgersen. The most recent version is C# 7.3, which was released in 2018 alongside Visual Studio 2017 version 15.7.2.
The ECMA standard lists these design goals for C#:
- The language is intended to be a simple, modern, general-purpose, object-oriented programming language.
- The language, and implementations thereof, should provide support for software engineering principles such as strong type checking, array bounds checking, detection of attempts to use uninitialized variables, and automatic garbage collection. Software robustness, durability, and programmer productivity are important.
- The language is intended for use in developing software components suitable for deployment in distributed environments.
- Portability is very important for source code and programmers, especially those already familiar with C and C++.
- Support for internationalization is very important.
- C# is intended to be suitable for writing applications for both hosted and embedded systems, ranging from the very large that use sophisticated operating systems, down to the very small having dedicated functions.
- Although C# applications are intended to be economical with regard to memory and processing power requirements, the language was not intended to compete directly on performance and size with C or assembly language.
Microsoft first used the name C# in 1988 for a variant of the C language designed for incremental compilation. That project was not completed but the name lives on.
The name “C sharp” was inspired by the musical notation where a sharp indicates that the written note should be made a semitone higher in pitch. This is similar to the language name of C++, where “++” indicates that a variable should be incremented by 1 after being evaluated. The sharp symbol also resembles a ligature of four “+” symbols (in a two-by-two grid), further implying that the language is an increment of C++.
Due to technical limitations of display (standard fonts, browsers, etc.) and the fact that the sharp symbol (U+266F ♯ MUSIC SHARP SIGN (HTML
♯)) is not present on most keyboard layouts, the number sign (U+0023 # NUMBER SIGN (HTML
#)) was chosen to approximate the sharp symbol in the written name of the programming language. This convention is reflected in the ECMA-334 C# Language Specification. However, when it is practical to do so (for example, in advertising or in box art), Microsoft uses the intended musical symbol.
The “sharp” suffix has been used by a number of other .NET languages that are variants of existing languages, including J# (a .NET language also designed by Microsoft that is derived from Java 1.1), A# (from Ada), and the functional programming language F#. The original implementation of Eiffel for .NET was called Eiffel#, a name retired since the full Eiffel language is now supported. The suffix has also been used for libraries, such as Gtk# (a .NET wrapper for GTK+ and other GNOME libraries) and Cocoa# (a wrapper for Cocoa).
By design, C# is the programming language that most directly reflects the underlying Common Language Infrastructure (CLI). Most of its intrinsic types correspond to value-types implemented by the CLI framework. However, the language specification does not state the code generation requirements of the compiler: that is, it does not state that a C# compiler must target a Common Language Runtime, or generate Common Intermediate Language (CIL), or generate any other specific format. Theoretically, a C# compiler could generate machine code like traditional compilers of C++ or Fortran.
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