On The Life Of [Dennis Ritchie]

Chances are you have already heard of the passing of [Dennis Ritchie]. We admit, we’re among the throngs who knew little of his life, but [Cade Metz] has posted an excellent remembrance of his life which we think is well worth reading.

[Dennis] passed on October 12th at the age of 70. This image shows him receiving the National Medal of Technology awarded to him by [Bill Clinton] in 1998. His legacy lives on in the work that earned him this award as the creator of the C programming language; a side project which he developed to help him achieve the creation of a new system kernel called UNIX. This work, of course, was the precursor that led to universal software packages like OSX, iOS, Linux, and even Windows (which at one point was itself written using the C language).

There has been some Internet fodder regarding media coverage of [Steve Jobs’] death and not of [Dennis’] passing. It’s harder for those lacking experience with programming to comprehend [Dennis’] contributions. We’re glad to have an opportunity to pass on the story of his life and to take a moment to appreciate his accomplishments.

[Thanks Dave]

[Photo Source]

40 thoughts on “On The Life Of [Dennis Ritchie]

  1. Oh my god! I did’t know about the genius that mister Dennis Ritchie was, but I thank him for all he has created and I am sorry and I feel downright awful for the lack of gratitude I have given him, and the entire world has given him. May you rest in peace and hopefully be rewarded and praised for your contribution.

  2. It’s really impossible to overstate just how important this man’s work has been to the modern world and the Information Era.

    Sadly he hasn’t got the recognition he deserves outside of tech industries, but I suppose that’s life. Turing and Babbage both lack recognition as well, and all three are on the same level in terms of importance of contributions to the field.

  3. i did have my moments with the C compiler, spent hours debugging my faulty code, it became part of my personality now, hail! the master, who is now ubiquitous, we will never forget the contribution that made us coders, hackers, nerds, professionals.

  4. @buzzles, et al:

    “Sadly he hasn’t got the recognition he deserves outside of tech industries..”

    I couldn’t agree more, but isn’t that typical of people in our profession/hobby? I didn’t know the man (but knew his work), yet somehow I get the feeling he didn’t do it for the recognition he deserved. He saw a need and developed a solution.

    My gratitude goes to folks like Mr. Ritchie, as well as those who recognize his contributions.

    Thanks for paving the road.

  5. Thank you Mr. Ritchie. Hard to imagine a world without C.

    “Windows (which at one point was itself written using the C language)”
    Isn’t it still written in C? One can still call the Windows APIs, which are implemented as C functions.

  6. What a great man! I wrote a paper on him and his contributions in HS for extra credit in a C+ programming class.

    He will be remembered and missed. If you just stop and think where we would be without this guy the end result is mind blowing.

    Rest in peace Mr. Ritchie. You were quite literally “the man”.

  7. god@world~# userdel -r dmr

    As a computer scientist in training, I salute the tremendous influence dmr has brought upon computing. Namely the influence C has had on all subsequent programming languages and Unix/POSIX market share, meaning kids today have the luxury of going to university and never knowing the pain of say MVS, OS/360, or JCL.

    Rest in peace.

  8. Wow, that’s a balanced article without name dropping.

    “was the precursor that led to universal software packages…” 1/2 the products list are from one company, despite having like a million other packages based on C. Practically every OS out there is written in C.

    1. I was just thinking, “They mention iOS but not Android, which is based on Linux and Java, based on UNIX and C?”

      Actually, I can’t think of any modern platforms that aren’t based on both. (Even Windows, even when you ignore C, since so much of the original design for NT was based on UNIX design.)

      1. None of Windows was based on UNIX design. NT kernel architect Dave Cutler hated UNIX with a passion. Windows was loosely based on VAM/VMS, but was written in C, designed to be portable, and had a much richer security model.

  9. Truly one of the great minds of computer science.

    The fact C is still the first compiler on most new cores should be counted as credit from his work.

    If only he finally documented the output from
    ar x God

  10. So long and thanks for all the C. RIP.

    “I couldn’t agree more, but isn’t that typical of people in our profession/hobby?”
    This is unfortunately true for any profession – when was the last time you heard of a great mathematician/biologist/physicist passing, no matter what were his contributions. They were mourned in amongst their own, but not by the general public. Only media visible people will get a public mourning.

  11. Dennis Ritchie, as well as Bell Labs, gave us C. I cannot imagine what my college education would be like if it were not for C, its derivatives and all of the software built using Ritchie’s technology.

    That said, I feel ashamed that I do not (yet) own a copy of K&R’s book, but in honor of Ritchie, I will get one.

  12. Steve Jobs and Apple even owe this man, considering that (as is overlooked by just about every source) OSX is entirely Linux and Unix based, from the kernal to the command line.

    1. Nitpick: OSX is BSD/Mach based, not Linux. They do use a bunch of utilities from GNU/Linux though, like BASH & GCC (sort of), so you’re not that far off.

      C is probably going to stay around in some form or another forever, due to it’s simplicity to port to new platforms, so in a way one could say Dennis is immortal.

      1. I believe Apple are moving away from using Linux (or more specifically GPL) tools and moving towards things under other licenses.

        Most of the changes away have been because Apple has a company-wide rule that they will not ship a single line of code released under the GPLv3 (and that includes contributing code from GPLv2 licensed Apple source trees for things like GCC back to the upstream GPLv3 tree)

  13. Steve Jobs dies and the papers go mad, but he would be nothing without the things that Ritchie created. Then just a week later he dies too, but the papers are still on about what a great man(pfft) jobs was.

  14. Three score & ten.
    I’d rank D. Ritchie with Bob Pease.
    The Old Guard passes.
    [Anyway, they got medals and recognition: as offices, labs, and big bucks on pay-day, assuredly — even if there were no parades.]
    Three score & ten.

  15. It was time that someone give credit to Ritchie. I found very annoying that all the media give so much credit to Steve Jobs but nothing to Ritchie. I am not complaining about the achievements of Steve Jobs; however, Richie did give the community something that without it, we would still being far behind of what we are today.

  16. I’ve hacked my own kernel on a bochs emulator, which surely would have driven me insane if I was forced to do it in asm. I’ve used C99 on Nintendo DS homebrew programs, again places where manipulating multiple cores and sound and graphics chips would have been a manic mess in assembly. Now, I do most of my programing in various forms of ECMA; all of which looks very much like C or C++.

    As gamers, we might have gotten up to the 16-bit era on consoles with devkits aimed at asm programers, but after that, they saw the light and looked to C.

    As hackers, we may argue on which chip maker is the best in the arm v pic v avr holy war. But most of us have used C to program those chips at some point. Even the arduino language syntax is based on C.

    Maybe without Mr Ritchie someone else would have given us a language to do all of these things. But they didn’t have to; because C worked. We could make the same discussion about the UNIX kernel, or his involvement with Multics and dynamic linking and ring-based security. All of the ideas still being used and built upon.

  17. What holds up the universe you ask? Why, it’s a giant turtle. But what holds up the turtle? My friend, it’s turtles all the way down… and then there’s C.

    #include "GodLibraryOfLife.h"

    void GodGreatPersonFactory(GreatPerson *person) {
    if(!memcmp(person->name,"Dennis Ritchie", sizeof("Dennis Ritchie")) {
    struct Wonder *unix_os = NULL;
    struct Wonder *c_language = NULL;
    struct Wonder *modern_computing = NULL;

    int main() {
    GreatPerson *dennis_ritchie = malloc(GreatPerson);//create the body
    memset(dennis_ritchie, 0, sizeof(GreatPerson)); //Reset his memory
    dennis_ritchie->name = "Dennis Ritchie"; //Somebody gives him a name
    void GodGreatPersonFactory(dennis_ritchie); //God has a list of actions the guy must do
    free(dennis_ritchie); // After all he free's his body
    return SINGULARITY;

  18. He was very shy. After a talk he gave at Bell Labs in Columbus, Ohio (in the 80’s), I went up to shake his hand. He was very nice, shook my hand, but he could not make eye contact.

    I am very sorry that he passed away, and very sorry that not more attention was paid to him while he was alive.

  19. Wow, what a shock… How many lines of C code have been written and compiled since it was first released to the world? Must be in the billions! C is probably being used by someone at this very moment, in every country on Earth. Ritchie created the revolution that married hardware and software and jump started the that *NIX and PC world. He has now passed, and most people will never understand don’t have a clue… Someone already said it. If not appreciated by all, he has become immortal.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.