General Douglas MacArthur famously said during his 1951 farewell address to the U.S. Congress that “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” A half century later, MacArthur’s statement could just as easily apply to programming languages. Specifically, Visual Basic.

Microsoft last month announced that it was extending “It Just Works” compatibility for Visual Basic 6 applications for the full lifetime of Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 and (most importantly) Windows 8. As described on the Visual Basic 6.0 Resource Center, “the core Visual Basic 6.0 runtime will be supported for the full lifetime” of these operating systems. The commitment comprises five years of mainstream support followed by five years of extended support.

Karl Peterson is a VB6 programmer and formerly a longtime columnist at Visual Studio Magazine and Visual Basic Programming Journal (where he wrote the popular VB Corner column, among others, until 2010). Peterson notes that this announcement officially puts the lifetime of the VB6 runtime past his projected retirement. And that fact may have implications for enterprises sitting on large amounts of working VB6 code, which Peterson calls “the COBOL of the 2020s.”

“Many in the Classic VB community started out back in the pre-Windows days, and are now at the point of seeing retirement on the horizon,” he says. “And the loss of that institutional knowledge at many enterprises will only further entrench the functional code base.”

Peterson says Microsoft’s decision reflects the fact that VB6 adoption went beyond the “hobbyist or shareware type author who was the guerilla in the enterprise.” He says Microsoft was likely moved to extend support because businesses still maintain VB6 code of real value, and are in no position to immediately migrate off it.

What is your take on Microsoft’s decision to extend VB6 support? And what would you like to see Microsoft do to best serve the interests of developers and organizations engaged with VB6 code?