Linked by Eugenia Loli on Thu 13th Oct 2011 00:28 UTC
General Unix Twitter is currently buzzing about the death of Dennis Ritchie, the visionary creator of UNIX and C, among other things. We hope it's just a false rumor. Story developing, we will be updating. Update: Unfortunately, it seems to be confirmed. Rob Pike, co-creator of the Plan 9 and Inferno OSes, who has worked with Ritchie in the past, and he's currently working for Google's GO language, posted this.
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RE[5]: horrible to hear
by MacTO on Thu 13th Oct 2011 08:04 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: horrible to hear"
MacTO
Member since:
2006-09-21

In all likelihood, Jobs will be virtually forgotten twenty years from now. A hundred years from now, Ritchie will be remembered. The reason is simple: historians have a tendency to choose the significant figures and ignore the rest. Ritchie was a significant figure because he helped to define programming languages and operating systems. In effect, he was a 'nation builder.' Yet Jobs was more of a pop culture icon. His real contributions were in the 1970's and 1980's when he helped to build a business that popularized computers. But the reality is that there were hundreds of people waiting to step up and take his place. You can't say the same thing for Ritchie.

Reply Parent Score: 15

RE[6]: horrible to hear
by Kebabbert on Thu 13th Oct 2011 08:15 in reply to "RE[5]: horrible to hear"
Kebabbert Member since:
2007-07-27

In all likelihood, Jobs will be virtually forgotten twenty years from now. A hundred years from now, Ritchie will be remembered. The reason is simple: historians have a tendency to choose the significant figures and ignore the rest. Ritchie was a significant figure because he helped to define programming languages and operating systems. In effect, he was a 'nation builder.' Yet Jobs was more of a pop culture icon. His real contributions were in the 1970's and 1980's when he helped to build a business that popularized computers. But the reality is that there were hundreds of people waiting to step up and take his place. You can't say the same thing for Ritchie.

It makes sense.

There are lot of big business men back in the 19th century. Who remembers them? No one. But many have heard about Cantor (19th), Einstein (20th century), etc. The scientists.

Who know about big business 2000 years ago? Who know about Pythagoras who lived 2000 years ago?


If you discover a new important scientific discovery, you will be remembered even 1000s of years later.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[7]: horrible to hear
by tylerdurden on Thu 13th Oct 2011 18:50 in reply to "RE[6]: horrible to hear"
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

Products are temporary, good ideas are eternal.

Steve Jobs's fortune came to life by the sword of built-in obsolesce, and his legacy will die by it. Once the "next big thing" disrupts the market nobody will remember him.

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[6]: horrible to hear
by steve_s on Thu 13th Oct 2011 11:30 in reply to "RE[5]: horrible to hear"
steve_s Member since:
2006-01-16

Only time will tell how history judges these two men, and personally I find it difficult to judge the comparative contributions of the two.

My feeling is that you are undervaluing the contributions that Jobs made. Whilst they began in the 70s and 80s, they continued through right up until he died. The value of bringing easy to use, high technology, mass-market products like the Apple ][, Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad to the market should not be underestimated. In virtually every one of those product examples the prevailing wisdom was that it couldn't be done.

In contrast Ritchie's contributions of C and UNIX were done before Steve Jobs' career began. Their value is not to be underestimated, since they serve as valuable foundations for much of what has followed.

Whilst you say that there were others waiting to step up and take the place of Jobs at his rise, the same can also be said of Ritchie. Sure, the industry was younger with less people involved so fewer could have taken his place, but there were other languages besides C, and Ritchie was one member of a team that produced Unix.

Let's face it - neither man is really well known outside of geeky circles. There are plenty of people, even those that own iPhones, that didn't know who Steve Jobs was. Far fewer people have heard of Dennis Ritchie - it is only geeks that have heard of him, and most only know him because his name is on the cover of the C book.

The fact is that both men have their place. They will both be missed. This is not a competition.

Reply Parent Score: 9

RE[6]: horrible to hear
by Laurence on Thu 13th Oct 2011 11:34 in reply to "RE[5]: horrible to hear"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

In all likelihood, Jobs will be virtually forgotten twenty years from now. A hundred years from now, Ritchie will be remembered. The reason is simple: historians have a tendency to choose the significant figures and ignore the rest. Ritchie was a significant figure because he helped to define programming languages and operating systems. In effect, he was a 'nation builder.' Yet Jobs was more of a pop culture icon. His real contributions were in the 1970's and 1980's when he helped to build a business that popularized computers. But the reality is that there were hundreds of people waiting to step up and take his place. You can't say the same thing for Ritchie.


That comment was true for a time when education was a luxury so records were kept by the learned.

However these days everything we say is recorded and saved. So the millions of transcripts from the masses echoing Steve Jobs's name will totally drown the few tributes to Dennis Ritchie from us geeks.

The information age is a double edged sward. ;)

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[7]: horrible to hear
by MacTO on Thu 13th Oct 2011 15:40 in reply to "RE[6]: horrible to hear"
MacTO Member since:
2006-09-21

I think that you will find it equally true today. Every age creates far more information that it can handle. A lot of that information ends up destroyed. A lot more ends up being ignored by future generations.

What matters though is what we choose to pass on to successive generations. I think that Ritchie has a real opportunity to be passed on no matter how obscure he may be today. Perhaps it will only be in textbooks of the trade, but that is something. And it will be because he contributed to foundational knowledge.

Jobs is certainly a bigger figure today, and he made some big contributions. But those contributions were in the 80's when Apple was first on the scene and defined markets. So if Jobs is remembered, and I think that is a big if, it will be as part of Jobs & Wozniak. (The same goes for Woz, alas. If he's remembered it will be as Jobs & Wozniak too.)

Reply Parent Score: 2