With the passing of Dennis Ritchie, the technology industry loses another great mind and another great innovator. While not a household name like Steve Jobs, his impact is no less widespread. In fact, at some level his contributions are even more far reaching than those of Jobs and perhaps even by quite a bit. Consider his life’s work:
He was the principal designer of the C programming language and along with Brian Kernighan, co-authored the first authoritative text on the subject simply titled “The C Programming Language” more commonly known by its nickname “the K&R.” His work didn’t stop there as he was also the co-inventor, along with Ken Thompson, of the Unix operating system. If we stop and think for a moment about the impact of C and Unix on IT, or for that matter, the world in which we live, Ritchie’s influence looks nothing short of astounding. If you take a close enough look, you’ll find that these two technologies are simply everywhere.
The software which powers the Internet; you know the stuff like TCP/IP, web servers, e-mail, etc. Nearly all of it started out written in C or one of its variants (e.g. C++), running on some version of Unix or its variants (yes Linux, I’m looking at you). That desktop operating system that you love to hate? You know, the one created by those people in Redmond. Yes, that’s written in C and C++. That desktop operating system that you love to love – Mac OS? Yeah that’s Unix under the covers, written in C and C++. The iPhone? Android phones? Little Unixes (Unices?) all of them. Perhaps no other two technologies on the planet can claim such ubiquity. Not bad as far as contributions to the world go.
And speaking of the world, let’s not forget “Hello World.”
For anyone who has ever written their first “test program” in some new programming language, the phrase is a well known meme. To this accidental success, we can also give Dennis Ritchie some credit, at least in part.
So on this day, it’s perhaps only fitting for the world to respond in kind with both a heartfelt “Thank You” and a fond Farewell.
I’ll do my part here:
printf(“thank you, dennis and farewell. your work lives on”);