September 9, 1941 – October 8, 2011
There are famous people who are believed to affect many lives, and then there are less famous people who affect everybody including the former and truly bring prosperity to humanity. Dennis Ritchie was one of the latter.
My direct benefit was through “K&R”, AKA the “Bible” of C (oficially “The C Programming Language” by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie). That was the only book I used to learn the C language in the early 1990s to program some utilities and rewrite some programs for my sister’s PC that I thought were poorly written. I never started from Basic like many others, but chose the right stuff instead for my first programming language. That’s how I took the plunge into the world of computers. Dennis Ritchie authored the major part of the C programming language and co-authored the Unix operating system. His book was enough to get me cookin’ some slick computer stuff and made me look like a wiz.
My indirect benefit from Mr. Ritchie (most likely yours as well) simply can’t be measured. His work influenced many other operating systems and many other programming languages that “get the motor running” on most computing devices worldwide. Operating systems derived from Unix and standing on the shoulders of this giant include all flavors of Linux (Red Hat, Ubuntu, SUSE…), Android, MacOS, iOS, NetWare; even DOS and Windows were designed so that “microcomputers” can have functionality and commands similar to those on big Unix systems, and all of them use C programs. Although the term open source software didn’t even exist those days, the idea did – Unix gurus were sharing their code and the idea was to make it portable so it can work on different machines after some tweaking. I choose open source software and open source philosophy whenever possible.
Dennis Ritchie silently touched all of our lives. If Steve Jobs was the Edison of his time, Dennis Ritchie was the Tesla of his time – an educated scientist and engineer who without excessive publicity contributed to humanity far more than most people realize.
dmr, you’ve got thank you mail.