This morning at The Dog House I couldn’t resist this profane headline on Digg. As an Apple fanatic I felt it my duty to do a bit of research in an attempt to understand the hostility displayed. I quickly found out that Dennis Ritchie, the creator of the C programming language and co-creator of UNIX, passed away on October 11th. The New York Times coined him the computer scientist who “helped shape the digital era.”
Steven Miller over at Without Supervision wrote an informative and heart felt post. These sections stuck out to me:
In 1978, with his second great collaborator, Brian Kernighan, Ritchie wrote a book simply called, “The C Programming Language.” That book changed my life. And that of a lot of other programmers. And yours.
C has become the definitive computer language of our era. Learn it, and you are employable all over the world, on almost any computer platform running today. Everything from computers, to games, to microwave ovens, to car stereos, to ATMs, to… well, everything runs C programs. As the years since 1978 have unfolded, a number of other languages have risen up, including C++, Visual Basic, and Java, to name the most popular. But, a common joke among programmers is that, as time passes, “all programming languages converge towards C.” That is, every time a programming language is redefined to improve it, it tends to look more like C than it did in the last definition.
A lot of people felt a tug on their heart when Steve Jobs passed away. It’s understandable and says good things about our world that a man like Jobs is missed, that his passing is felt. Jobs made computers cool, and we’ll always honor his memory for that. What most folks just don’t know, however is that Dennis Ritchie made it possible for computers to be cool. Before Jobs, he envisioned the computer as a tool for use by the individual, one that didn’t need a priesthood nor that treated its users as supplicants. Without his vision, without the language he invented, and without the system Dennis Ritchie created, Steve Jobs would never, ever have been able to make computers cool.
Anyone can tell you why the Macintosh is cool, but only a programmer can tell you why C is cool. Trust a programmer on this one, then: C is cool. C is very, very cool. And so was Dennis Ritchie.
Thanks for voicing your opinion and posting this insightful article.
Let’s all take a belated moment of silence in honor of Dennis Ritchie.