Dennis Ritchie, Co-Creator of Unix and Founder of C, Has Died

Illustration for article titled Dennis Ritchie, Co-Creator of Unix and Founder of C, Has Died

In less than a week, the world has lost two tech pioneers. Last week, we mourned the passing of Steve Jobs, and now we say goodbye to computer scientist Dennis Ritchie who also recently died.


Ritchie, or dmr as he was called in programming circles, worked most of his life at Bell Laboratories where he helped create the C programming language and worked extensively on the Unix operating system. Without his work, many of the computing products we have today would not exist. Apple, whose OS X operating system is based on Unix and whose Objective C programming language is rooted in C, has benefitted greatly from Ritchie's work.

Ritchie also co-wrote the definitive bible on C programming (a must have for any programmer) and has been awarded the Turing Award, the National Medal of Technology and, recently, the Japan Prize for his work in the field of computer science. He died at home over the weekend of Oct 8/9th from an unknown illness. He was 70-years-old. [Google+ and Boing Boing]



The comparisons between Jobs & Ritchie are ridiculous— they worked in the same industry, but it’s not at all like they did similar things. Their impacts were huge, but they are by no means equivalent.

The most important thing I learned from using C? Certainly not the language— it has its place, but it’s not a great language for the kinds of apps I’m asked to write (I had several years of assembler, so I knew the joy and the pain of bare metal). It’s the culture. There’s a specific mindset and purpose when people program in C, and the heart of that spirit is found in the K&R C book.

There are a ton of books on C out there. There are none that are as insightful, as communicative, as direct, and as instructive as the K&R book. The book itself is structured such that you begin to think in C terms. That’s a tricky thing to do, particularly when you’re trying to get your head around abstract concepts in programming terms for the first time. It changes your outlook on how you think and code. The K&R C book is to programming what Strunk & White’s _Elements of Style_ is to writing. Both books keep giving long after you used them for training or class.