I missed it. Didn’t see the headline either. Clearly not following the right people on twitter. But for those who know who I mean when I say “K&R” will have probably done a programming course at some time, and recognise the reference to “Kernighan and Ritchie”.
But for the rest of you, you should know that someone probably even more important than even the late Steve Jobs passed away barely a week after Steve. Without Dennis Ritchie there would be no ‘C’ programming language or Unix operating system, both of which he designed along with Ken Thompson. Without Unix, there would be no Linux or BSD – both variants of the original. And Steve Job’s hallowed OSX operating system for the Macintosh is based on BSD. And the C programming language is used extensively by developers of software for all operating systems, from Windows PCs to super-computers.
So there you have it. Two great innovators passing way within a week. One was a marketing expert who never attained a degree, the other a scientist with PhD from Harvard. It will be interesting to see how history remembers them in 50 years!
One way of summing up Dennis Ritchie’s achievements appeared in the Washington Post.
“It’s sort of ‘apples’ and oranges,” said Paul Ceruzzi, a Smithsonian historian and expert on the history of computers. “Ritchie was under the radar. His name was not a household name at all, but . . . if you had a microscope and could look in a computer, you’d see his work everywhere inside.”