Tuesday, October 18, 2011

White hair chronicles - Dennis M. Ritchie, RIP

Dennis M. Ritchie passed away just a week after Steve Jobs died. In a week's span, the world lost two giants of the computing world. But Ritchie's death almost came unnoticed. Maybe the world was still mourning for Steve. But most likely, the world hasn't heard of Dennis M. Ritchie. Who is he anyway? To the non-techie, the low-profile Ritchie is the creator (along with Ken Thomson) of Unix and the C programming language (with Brian W. Kernighan). Unix, of course, is the precursor of Linux and MacOS (there's the connection to Steve); while C is the language which is perhaps the most widely used programming language.

I tried to learn C back in the old days, when the world has not yet heard of Linux. I had the C Programming book which was cheap, thin and printed on newsprint unlike today's expensive, thick, glossy computer books. It was simple, but elegant. I also had the similarly printed C-Answer book.

I originally thought that Kernighan was the father of C, since he got top billing in the book (K&R C). Through wikipedia, we later learn that Kernighan actually attributes the design of C entirely to Ritchie.

No doubt Dennis Ritchie was low-profile, as indicated in the billing of their book. Despite his legendary contributions, few knew about him. I read somewhere that if Gates or Jobs are the Buzz Aldrins of IT, then Dennis Ritchie is a Michael Collins. His role was equally important even if he stayed away from the limelight. Now, the young ones will ask who the heck are Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin? But that's another story.

1 comment:

  1. He is also a big loss in this industry. He will be missed.



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