The groundbreaking work he did with Ken Thompson led to the operating system behind everything from set-top boxes to the iPhone, but who sings the praises of the late Dennis Ritchie?
Dennis Ritchie: The Other Man Inside Your iPhone
Submitted by twitterfire 2011-10-17 Unix 6 Comments
dmr was late on the scene for me. The first computer I ever used was an Apple ][ in 1980, and the first men in computing I heard of were the two Steves. Woz was the biggest inspiration to me in those years, but Jobs came to prominence in 84 when I saw my first Mac and desperately wanted on.
I went to Uni in 86 but didn’t use Unix or C until the late 80’s. We had a project to write an assembler, which we were expected to use Pascal or some such. I had heard of this language called C, so found a compiler (I think it was Turbo C) and started to learn. I got an A for that project, and began my love affair with the language. I also discovered Unix a couple of years later and again fell head over heals for it.
To be honest, I didn’t research the men behind Unix and the man behind C until maybe the early 00’s.
The computer industry rests on the shoulders of many giants, Dennis is one of them as are many others, each man contributing so much to the science we all love.
Richie is “lucky” that he passed away just after Jobs, otherwise his death would have gone unnoticed by the mainstream news media, as it is most British news outlets made reference to his contribution to the “iPhone”… A lame epitaph at best considering the value of his unix and c contributions to the world, but better than nothing.
The sad thing is even on this site far more people commented on Steve Jobs’ passing away than they did on Dennis Ritchie, sometimes even taking to opportunity to slam Steve, Apple or both.
Steve did change the world, but NeXT en OS X are based on UNIX and so are most iDevices. It’s the same for Linux, a UNIX clone, and from that Android and a lot of embedded stuff people use every day.
This header (or something more extensive) should be locked on top of the main page of this site for at least a month for everyone to see, imho.
A real legend.
Rest in Peace, Dennis M. Ritchie.
Edited 2011-10-18 17:28 UTC
I think that Dennis Ritchie will be mentioned in texts of students learning computer science, programming languages, and operating systems for many many years. He will be remembered as Pythagoras, Cantor, and Turing are.
Jobs was a celebrity and much of the coverage is due to it. That is not to say Jobs was only a celeb and nothing more. Time will tell, but I have a feeling that memories and texts mentioning Ritchie will linger over time while memories and texts of Jobs will dwindle.
Sad to hear that someone with the vision to create UNIX has passed away. My comments about C and C syntax are best left for another time.
I didn’t encounter UNIX in any form until 1992 after I was laid off from my second programming job. We used a wide variety of OSes in the BSCS program I went through in the early and mid 80’s … VMS, OS1100, KRONOS and NOS, PC-DOS, and even MacOS, but not UNIX. Languages we learned ranged from various mainframe and PC assembly languages to Pascal, F77, and ALGOL, but no C. It simply hadn’t become that important in our part of the country.
That said, the creation of a portable OS that could be run on a variety of hardware platforms was a major achievement. Maybe not that hard to do from an ivory tower perspective, but he and Ken Thompson actually *did* it. They walked the walk, and the platform they created became a power in the computing world, and a lingua franca of sorts.
Non-portable operating systems tend to be heavily proprietary. UNIX was not, and Linux and the BSDs were a natural progression. We owe a lot to the existence of UNIX, I think, despite its arguable faults. It works.
Edited 2011-10-19 01:49 UTC