Dennis Ritchie, the godfather of the C programming language and the Unix operating system has died after a long illness last weekend at the age of 70.
He inspired millions of programmers and developers to learn the powerful programming language to construct both systems and applications level programs with a simplicity of expression never before seen in computing. He was responsible for creating millions of careers using his C language to develop programs such as device drivers, networking protocols such as TCP/IP, and complex scientific modelling programs used in research around the world.
Just about everything on the web uses C and UNIX. The browsers are written in C. The UNIX kernel, the OS that the Internet runs on is written in C. Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and Web servers are written in C. If they’re not, they’re written in Java or C++, which are C derivatives, or Python or Ruby, which are implemented in C.
Windows was once written in C and UNIX is under the hood of both Mac OS X, Apple’s desktop operating system, and iOS, which runs the iPhone and the iPad. “Jobs was the king of the visible, and Ritchie is the king of what is largely invisible,” says Martin Rinard, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Ritchie, also known as “dmr”, is best know for creating the C programming language as well as being instrumental in the development of UNIX along with Ken Thompson. Ritchie worked most of his career at Bell Labs, which at the time of his joining in 1967, was one of the largest phone providers in the U.S. and had one of the most well-known research labs in operation.
Working alongside Thompson (who had written B) at Bell in the late sixties, the two men set out to develop a more efficient operating system for the up-and-coming minicomputer, resulting in the release of Unix (running on a DEC PDP-7) in 1971. ( DEC was the name for the Digital Equipment Corporation ).
Unix was cheap and compatible with just about any machine. The Unix core kernel OS was written in machine (or assembly) language. This allowed the OS to run very efficiently.
In 1973, Ritchie and Thompson had rewritten Unix in C, developing its syntax, functionality, and beyond to give the language the ability to program an operating system. The kernel was published in the same year.
Today, C remains the second most popular programming language in the world (or at least the language in which the second most lines of code have been written), and ushered in C++ and Java; while the pair’s work on Unix led to, among other things, Linus Torvalds’ Linux. The work has without a doubt made Ritchie one of the most important, if not under-recognized, engineers of the modern era.
Dennis Ritchie's work with UNIX, led to him becoming a joint recipient of the Turing Award with Ken Thompson in 1983, as well as a recipient of the National Medal of Technology in 1998 from then-president Bill Clinton.
He will be missed by programmers world wide.
printf("RIP Dennis Ritchie");
Sign-up for our free newsletter to kick off your day with the latest technology insights, or share the article with your friends and contacts on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ using the icons below.