When something tragic happens, it is sometimes good to lead with a joke.
A man is smoking a cigarette and blowing smoke rings into the air. His girlfriend becomes irritated with the smoke and says, “Can’t you see the warning on the cigarette pack? Smoking is hazardous to your health!”
To which the man replies, “I am a programmer. We don’t worry about warnings; we only worry about errors.”
Dennis McAllstair Ritchie started work at Bell Labs in 1968 where he developed the ubiquitous C programming language. In addition to inventing the first widely used high-level programming language he was one of the key developers of Unix. Along with cohort Ken Thompson, Dennis was a pioneer of modern computing.
In 1988, Ritchie become a member of the National Academy of Engineering due to the far reaching and influential effects of both of these projects. To give an idea of how far his influence reached, I am typing to article on a Unix-like system that relies of many programs written in the C language and will soon transfer this information over the Internet across many routers which run a Unix-like operating system consisting of C programs. Finally, this work will settle neatly onto a disk in a machine in LA that is also Unix-like. Unix and C have both saved lives and launched bombs.
Ritchie is the 1983 winner of the Turing Award. It was here he gave his famous lecture “Reflections on Software Research.
Alongside Ken Thompson, Ritchie received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal from IEEE in 1990.
Never have I relied on one man’s work for so much. I use it to dial numbers on my phone. I use it to email. My Blu-Ray player is even POSIX compliant!
If there is any death that should be mourned in the month of October, it is that of Dennis Ritchie. I doubt that he would want to be evangelized (like another passing that occurred recently), but your respects we ask for. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, iMac or iPod, his work is there. Much of it is just the way he left it. The difference is, he actually invented it.
UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity. -DMR