Dennis Ritchie - described as
one of the greatest and most influential minds of computing - passed away yesterday at the age of 70. Ritchie had been "in frail health" lately after combating prostate cancer and heart disease his brother Bill told the New York Times
Ritchie is noted as and credited for being the mastermind behind the widely used and versatile C programming language
as well as playing a main role in creating the UNIX
computer operating system.
Ritchie's vision, according to ZDNet
, was to develop a language that accomplished both the tasks of meeting the intellectual caliber of programmers while simultaneously creating a freedom for them to create and follow their passions.
Born on September 9, 1941 in Bronxville, NY, Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie was raised in New Jersey before attending Harvard and graduating with a degree in physics in 1963. Ritchie's father, Alistair, had worked at Bell Laboratories as a switching system engineer. It was there where Dennis himself spent the bulk of his career.
At the tail end of the 1960s, Ritchie, along with fellow programmer, Ken Thompson, set out to cultivate an operating system to be run on the then-up-and-coming minicomputer that was highly efficient. The fruit of this endeavor was UNIX says TechCrunch
However the first incarnation of UNIX was clunky despite its versatility due to the fact that it was written in "assembly language." This meant that whatever machine it was put on had severe limitations in terms of vocabulary and memory. Ritchie and Thompson remedied this problem by re-coding UNIX in Ritchie's own C language by 1973.
By the end of the decade, Ritchie and collaborator Brian Kernighan (a.k.a. K&R) had published and released the slim yet remarkably helpful reference guide on C which is still highly regarded when it comes to inspiration and practicality in this day and age.
UNIX and C both have literally countless spawned incarnations such as Linux, C++, the Mac operation system and iOS (for your iPhone). Ritchie went on to become a manager and ultimately the head of Lucent Technology Systems's software research department. Along with Thompson he received the Turing award in 1983 and the National Medal of Technology in 1999. Ritchie commenced his retirement in 2007.
The C programming language is still highly prevalent today, and is the second most popular code on earth. Dennis Ritchie
is also widely known for the "hello, world" program, which is essentially computer programming's inductive equivalent of cartoon animation's bouncing ball.