Few days back, there was an outbreak in the media – people all around the world were sad about the demise of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. While the world was in grief, no one seemed to care that the one who designed the base that gave us the technology we have, left us – without asking for thanks;
Dennis M Ritchie, popularly known as “dmr”, died on October 8 following severe sickness, and was confirmed by a close friend Rob Pike on Google+. Going back in time, we find that Dennis had never thought that computers will be where he will be spending his time. He graduated with degrees in Physics and Mathematics from Harvard. However, Dennis notes that “My undergraduate experience convinced me that I was not smart enough to be a physicist, and that computers were quite neat”. So there started his journey into the digital world – he joined Bell Labs in 1966, the pioneer of communications that time. He joined Ken Thompson to design and develop the Unix operating system;
“UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity” – Dennis Ritchie;
Compared to other operating systems of that time, Unix was very portable, the only shortcoming was that as it grew it became difficult to manage. This is where Dennis and Ken thought of developing a high level language for Unix. A language called B was already in place at Bell Labs and they improved it with data types and other nice features, leading to the C language. Although by today’s standards, C is regarded middle level, it was a very high level that time. It combined the flexibility of a high level language with the power of assembly language.
Followed by this, the duo rewrote Unix in C and tested it thoroughly, their company sold it to developers who really loved how C improved productivity. Where many would think that C no longer makes sense because there are more high level languages like Python, Java etc, the fact is that all these languages are in the end, implemented in C;
All this leads to just one conclusion – the modern computing world is nothing without his work. And we need to thank him for that, remember him for the fact that most of us got a job because of him. As Kernighan notes, “There’s that line from Newton about standing on the shoulders of giant. We’re all standing on Dennis’ shoulders”;
“The tributes to Dennis Ritchie won’t match the river of praise that spilled out over the web after the death of Steve Jobs. But they should.” – Wired;
Lets remember that great person who built this strong foundation for us, and give him the respect and honor he deserves, and thank him for giving us wonderful technology and making our lives better. We salute the true genius of modern computing; return 0;