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In Memory of Dennis Ritchie

Remembering The Creator of Steve Jobs, Linus Torvalds and Bill Gates

A few days after Steve Jobs passed; on October 12th in 2011 Dennis Ritchie passed away at the age of 70.

At the time everyone was talking about how Jobs changed computing, while there is no doubt that the Apple cult has been a success they could never have done it without Ritchie and co.

We’ve had two Jobs movies, I say it’s time for a Bell Labs movie!

Why? Well, Dennis and friends were extremely productive while working over at Bell Labs, amongst other things he co-created Unix with Ken Thompson, he wrote the book on the C programming language along with Brian Kerningan and he also wrote the language itself.

The World Runs on Unix

It’s safe to say that Unix turned out to be a great successes, Unix became the golden standard for operating system, OS X, Linux, Android, Chrome OS, PlayStation and even the Nintendo Switch are Unix-like systems.

Kerninghan, Thompson and Ritchie talking about how UNIX works at Bell Labs

The World Is Written in C

C ended up being just as prevalent, with not only a vast majority of operating systems being C based, most of the world’s code being either written in C, or in the case of user-space programs, running on a runtime that is written in C or C derived language like C++.

Your browser? That’s most likely written in C too, unless you’re on that one browser written in Rust.

Kerninghan talking about C and it’s influences

On a more personal note, C is the way I got into programming way back in 1990s armed with a copy of The C Programming Language and although I don’t get to use it that often anymore, there’s still something to be said about the purity of the language.

It doesn’t get in the way, it has just enough to be a high level language with access to low level details, this is my personal bias but I think it’s a beautiful language.

In closing, I’ll leave you with Dennis Ritchie’s webpage as memorialized by Bell Labs which contains some interesting tidbits like like the user manuals to BCPL and B.