Posted 14 March 2010 - 16:22
VB.NET's pretty easy to pick up. It's nowhere near the "kiddie language" that BASIC used to be; it's matured to a real object oriented programming language that rivals others. Plus you have the .NET framework at your fingertips, which is absurdly loaded with things that make your life a whole lot easier as a developer.. pretty much the whole Windows API is in there, and then some. C# is an excellent choice too, but a slightly steeper learning curve with it's syntax, which is more C like. (And lets face it, C is anything but friendly.) C# has an added advantage though if you want to learn other similar languages later.
Either way you go, the end result is going to be more or less identical as you're still dealing with .NET. You can mix and match between them as you like. The Visual Studio IDE is absolutely excellent for the most part, especially when you add CodeRush or similar. There's a ton of quality third party components out there too. The help system is excellent as well; plus tons more information on the web, books, etc.
Somewhat cross platform too with Mono; not perfect, but it's there.
Once you've mastered that, you can always hop into C++ down the road. That's in Visual Studio as well. Most definitely not a great starting point though; probably the most powerful system level language out there, but also the most unfriendly pain in the butt to work with too. I've gotten plenty of headaches trying to read other people's code while working on my BSD boxes. Fun stuff.
Plus if you're not sure, grab an Express edition. It's free, got nothing to lose. If you really get into it, you can always get the paid versions which are very good.
I used to advocate Pascal a lot too, but Embarcadero is doing more harm than good lately. The Pascal language is prettty easy to pick up, but Embarcadero's support is terrible. More often than not, if you want a bug fixed, it's "buy the next version". (Which usually is buggy too.) They even pulled the formerly free Turbo Explorer editions, now its either get the demo, or pay the high price tag for the full product. With Visual Studio Express being free, and the paid versions being significantly better than Delphi, there's really not much I can say that's nice anymore. On the other hand though, there is FreePascal. Runs on pretty much anything, and it has a pretty powerful compiler. (Even supports 64 bit platforms, which Delphi still has yet to do..) The Lazarus IDE is kind of rough though, similar to Delphi 7 if you've seen it. Plus there's not as much support for it, and 3rd party components are near non-existant. If anything, a possibly good choice for a hobbyist.