If I were a revolutionary in the tech industry, I’d be a little worried. Just a few days after the death of Steve Jobs, the tech community has lost another game-changing leader on October 12 — Dennis Ritchie.
While considerably less famous than Jobs, Ritchie was the father of the C programming language, which he created in 1973 at the Bell Telephone Laboratories. Ritchie was also well-known for being a key developer of the Unix operating system (along with Ken Thompson), which made extensive use of C. Over the course of his career, Ritchie was able to witness the incredible impact that his C language had on the industry. As more advanced languages began to appear, some were extensions of Ritchie’s C (such as C++) while others borrowed generously from C’s straightforward conventions in both syntax and compiling. Ritchie was such a fan of simplicity that he made every effort to make it a hallmark of UNIX…with arguable success.
UNIX is very simple, it just needs a genius to understand its simplicity.
– Dennis Ritchie
Ritchie was the recipient of some very impressive awards in the Computer Science field for his contributions to the UNIX OS, including the Turing Award (1983), the National Medal of Technology (1999), and most recently the Japan Prize (2011). All fellow computer scientists were humbled in his presence by his brilliance and understated character.
The loss of Ritchie rings a surprisingly personal note with me; after all, the closest I’ve ever been to speaking with the man was when I used his textbook (K&R C) for a class in college. Still, I grew to appreciate the dry humor he inserted into his writing and it’s impossible to forget that every professor I had revered him as a true genius.
Mr. Ritchie, you will be missed and thank you for your contributions to Computer Science. Some people say that Programming is 10% science, 20% ingenuity, and 70% getting the ingenuity to work with the science, and Ritchie’s tools have helped make that combination bearable .