Dennis Ritchie: farewell and thank you

With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, the world has had a reason to reflect on the significant impact some people have. Someone who made everything Steve Jobs did possible also passed away recently. On the 12 October 2011, Dennis Ritchie, the father of The C Programming Language, died at his home in Berkley Heights, New Jersey.

Beginning in 1970 and with the help of Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie began the design and construction of a new programming language. It was based on a language developed by Ken Thompson dubbed B. So the next language was called C. And the reason they wanted to create a new language? They wanted to write the kernel for the powerful multi-user operating system UNIX. that was to replace MULTICS which Bell Labs were ending their involvement with in 1969, the same year man first stepped on the moon. And in doing so, Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson created the framework on which all our modern computer and communications infrastructure are based.

Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie

The C Programming Language

The importance of The C Programming Language cannot be underestimated. Not only did it make UNIX possible, but it made UNIX possible on multiple computing platforms. It was also the foundation for higher level languages such as C++ and Java as well as most of the core infrastructure of the Internet is based on programs written in C.

A few additional reasons why C is so important:

  • Microsoft used it to create their initial software offerings
  • UNIX is the origin for OSX and iOS
  • 80% of all embedded software is still written in C
  • Our business writes the Embedded Software we create in C
The C programming language, Brian Kernighan & Dennis Ritchie

The C programming language, Brian Kernighan & Dennis Ritchie

The C Programming Language, Brian Kernighan & Dennis Ritchie, was the language manual for C and was so well written that it made picking up the language easy and was one of the reasons for the rapid uptake of the language.

So much of our modern world depends on the work of Dennis Ritchie. And I along with many others are grateful. He may not have been the public figure that Steve Jobs was, but he is leaving a larger and more enduring legacy.

Here are some further accolades for Dennis Ritchie:

And finally the 1998 USA National Medal for Science and Technology received by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson for their creation of the UNIX operating system and The C Programming Language.

And Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie explain what was behind the development of the UNIX operating system

We stand on the shoulders of giants. And Dennis Ritchie was a giant amongst giants.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile at Ray Keefe. This post is Copyright © 2011  Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd