RIP Dennis Richie

Will Goring, 13 Oct 2011

It’s been a terrible month for the industry. First Steve Jobs, and now Dennis Ritchie, inventor of C, and one of the key developers of unix.

His name may not be so well known as that other, equally tragic but more high profile passing, but his influence on computing - his legacy if you will - is every bit as pervasive and wide ranging; many would say it’s more so. His impact on me personally was certainly much greater.

To this day, I still consider myself a c programmer at heart and, were my employers to allow it, I’d probably fall back on using it for performance-critical parts of any project I write. As it is, the last time I wrote c professionally was five or six years ago, but that doesn’t reduce Ritchie’s influence being felt; C may be out of favour with large, non-technology, companies, but in it’s place they use Java; a direct descendent of that language.

Gaming aside, all the computing I do, I do on operating systems based on or derived from unix. Even my mobile phone (along with a significant percentage of the smartphones in the world,) is a distant descendant of the work he did 40 years ago at Bell Labs.

Put simply, it’s impossible to imagine my life without the influence his work has had on it; c/c++/Java/other-descendent-language and unix have been inexorably entwined in my hobby and my job every day for about as long as I can remember.

RIP Dennis.

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