23 October, 2011


Dennis Ritchie

There is an irony in the fact that while the death of Steve Jobs made national television news on the day of his death, the death a week later of Dennis Ritchie went largely unnoticed. I found out about it by accident when I got home and switched on the wireless on Friday evening just in time to hear Radio 4's Last Word programme.

Ritchie devised the C programming language which made portable operating systems economically practicable, building on and generalizing Martin Richards' earlier BCPL. Ritchie and Ken Thompson created the Unix operating system. C and Unix drive the Internet. It is Unix (OS/X) that powers current versions of the Apple Mac. It is also Unix that is the basis of Google's Android.

Two very different men contributing in their very different ways. Although Ritchie never sought the limelight in life, that shouldn't prevent us from commemorating him just a little bit better than we have been doing now that he has gone.

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